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Johannesburg - The death toll on South African roads is skyrocketing daily, with head-on crashes and drunken driving being blamed for most of the deaths.
Four people were killed when a VW Polo and a Nissan bakkie collided head-on the Pretoria Road in Kempton Park yesterday.
In Cape Town, two police officers were killed when a motorist, believed to have been drunk, went through a red robot and rammed into the officers’ van.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said it had noted with concern that head-on collisions were a major factor in the slaughter on the roads.
According to the RTMC, in 17 fatal accidents where more than five people had died, 11 were as a result of head-on collisions.
It said this trend was extremely worrying as the impact of these type of crashes was most devastating.
“Even in the most modern vehicle, the chances of surviving a head-on crash at speeds above 70 km/h are greatly reduced because of energy considerations.
“The most common types of injuries related to a head-on collision include spinal injuries, brain injuries, broken bones, and even paralysis,” the RTMC said.
From December 1 to December 23, 980 people were killed in 817 fatal crashes and the number could be in the region of 1 100 following another bloody long weekend on the roads.
At least 11 people died on the roads between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, according to the RTMC.
A three-week-old baby was killed when a car rolled at Camperdown, on the N3 between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
Two people died in an accident in the Free State that happened in the rain, between Welkom and Virginia. Three people were injured.
A pedestrian was killed in Navalsig, Bloemfontein, and a further three were killed on the outskirts of Paul Roux in a head-on collision.
In Mpumalanga, two people died and one was injured in a crash on the N12, near Witbank. A vehicle had left the road and rolled into a ditch.
RTMC spokesman Ashraf Ismail said overtaking a vehicle on a two- way road was a very dangerous exercise by virtue of the fact that for the duration of the manoeuvre, the passing vehicle is in a dangerous position.
“Sometimes it could be because people are taking a blind chance, they are impatient, drunk, fatigued or because of poor driver training. People are unable to properly judge the speed and distance of an oncoming vehicle,” said Ismail.
He once again called on South Africans to buckle up in order to reduce the fatalities on the road.
He said in the same way the country was urged to “condomise” to help beat the scourge of HIV/Aids, urgent action was needed to improve safety on the country’s roads.
Ismail urged motorists to exercise the L-S-W method while driving. Before passing or overtaking a vehicle on a two-way road, every driver should ask him/herself the following questions: L – is it legal? Is there any road sign/marking that prohibits overtaking on that stretch of the road?
Is it safe? Even if it is not prohibited, (S) is it safe to do so? Is your view obstructed or is there an on-coming vehicle? Is there space to return to your lane?
And, W – is it worthwhile to pass if the road ahead is going to widen where it is safe to pass, or if you are going to be slowed down by a truck or a traffic light?
“If you buckle up, there is an immediate 30 percent reduction in fatalities. We need South Africans to buckle up,” said Ismail.
On the issue of unroadworthy vehicles, Ismail said their monitoring team, as part of the rolling enforcement plan operations, found that one of the major problems was unroadworthy trailers and caravans. He said many of these trailers and caravans had poorly inflated tyres, were generally in a condition of disrepair, overloaded and unlicensed. “A swaying trailer or caravan can cause a vehicle to be unstable, leading to loss of control resulting in a crash. It is apparent from this festive season rush that many motorists simply pull a trailer or caravan from under a cover or garage and hook it up to a vehicle without checking its roadworthiness,” he said.
Ismail said the monitoring team had also come across a number of trailers that had been abandoned on the side of the roads, especially on arterial routes, posing a danger to other road users.
“Drivers are also travelling too closely and not observing the safe following distance. Most rear-end collisions are caused by vehicles following too closely. Drivers are urged to use the three-second rule to allow them sufficient space and time to avoid a hazard. If the weather conditions are poor, the following distance must be increased and headlamps switched on,” said Ismail.
Almost 360 000 vehicles have been stopped and screened so far, with 94 722 notices being issued. A total of 890 vehicles have been taken off the road nationwide, with special attention being given to public transport.