Minister Grant with Provincial Traffic Officers and one of the New Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Units at today’s launch. Picture: Department of Transport and Public Works.

Cape Town - With the festive season now upon us, the usual influx of holiday makers will soon begin their journeys to their respective destinations and in doing so, place additional pressure on all law enforcement agencies tasked with maintaining law and order on the roads.

This was the sentiment shared by Transport and Public Works MEC, Donald Grant, at the launch of Integrated Provincial Traffic Operational Plan for the Festive Season 2018/2019 on Thursday. 

MEC Grant said that additional resources are being dedicated towards effective monitoring and control of traffic volumes, as well as maintaining the rule of law on our roads.

"In the future, through effective partnerships and plans such as the one we are launching today, we aim to see a drastic reduction in the number of people either injured or killed on our roads," Grant said. 

He added that in order to achieve this, traffic will be conducting integrated traffic and road safety initiatives that respond directly to the dire situation on the roads; integrated operations that are set for execution, and will focus on the following key areas:

  • driver fatigue,
  • driver and vehicle fitness,
  • excessive speed and Average Speed Over Distance (ASOD),
  • driving under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicating substance and Random Breath Testing (RBT),
  • distracted driving,
  • moving violations,
  • pedestrian safety (with pedestrian deaths accounting for the majority of all road deaths),
  • seat belt compliance.

The Western Cape Government and the Department of Transport and Public Works have been proactively putting measures in place to promote the safety of all the residents of the Western Cape and all the visitors to our province. Grant said that they will continue to do so as the roads get busier in the coming days. 

"Our most urgent task is to do all we can to lessen the carnage that is caused each year by reckless and irresponsible behaviour on our roads.

"We must continue to encourage and promote safe and responsible road use as an imperative, and create a citizenry of law-abiders who exercise caution and care when taking to the roads - citizens who know that their conduct has a direct impact on the lives of others, and that their positive and safe actions keep others alive," Grant said.

"Each year, the lives lost senselessly on our roads are a painful reminder of the dangers that exist, and serve as a call to action for us to work tirelessly together, to lessen the carnage experienced daily. The lives that we lose at this time, year-on-year, remain a painful reminder of horrors experienced on our roads, and the work that must still be done to make our roads safer."

Over last year's festive season (1 December 2017 till 31 January 2018), a total of 262 lives were lost on the roads, which was an increase in deaths from the previous year as both driver and passenger fatality numbers went up.

#BoozeFreeRoads Alcohol and Roads Don’t Mix

Grant said that at the centre of any road safety initiative remains a strong focus on avoiding drinking and driving/walking and its many dangers.

The consumption of alcohol, and then getting behind the wheel of a vehicle or walking, increases the risk of being involved in a crash for motorists and pedestrians.

"Not only does alcohol impair processes critical to safe road use, such as vision and reaction time, it is also associated with poor judgement and so is often linked to other high-risk road use behaviours such as speeding or not using seat-belts.

"Our roads safety initiative, Safely Home, will be running a festive-season long awareness campaign under the theme “Alcohol and Roads Don’t Mix”, with the hashtag #BoozeFreeRoads. The campaign will specifically target adults, who are the ones most likely to drink and drive, or drink and walk," Grant said.

"We know that over 40% of drivers killed on Western Cape roads, who were tested for alcohol, were blood alcohol content (BAC) positive. We also know that approximately 372 pedestrians were killed while under the influence of alcohol on Western Cape roads last year. The problem of alcohol consumption and road use is one that demands our urgent attention."

Smart Enforcement over the Festive Season

As part of the department’s proactive safety measures, 490 Provincial Traffic Officers and 40 trainee traffic officer students received the necessary training to use handheld devices.

The new handheld technology will enable officials to have direct roadside access to verify the validity of driving and motor vehicle licences, professional driving permits, speeding offences at all Average Speed Over Distance sites across our province.

"We will also be deploying technological advancements in implementing our Fatigue Management Awareness Programme on the N1 Rietfontein. This program which will be fully functional, on a 24/7 basis, and on strategic dates over three consecutive days to monitor driver behaviour and extended times spent behind the wheel," Grant said.

"This program will have a particular focus on public transport drivers who have, in the past, been prone to falling asleep behind the wheel after driving for long periods."

Two New Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Units to be deployed in the Western Cape

On 1st July last year, the department launched the pilot Random Breath Testing (RBT) project, which is based on those used successfully around the world, in countries like Australia. Lessons for devising the RBT operational model were drawn from Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria, where a 20% reduction in alcohol related traffic injuries was achieved within two years of implementing RBT operations.

"Since its successful implementation last year, we have continued to expand on the project with the help of our Municipal partners. RBT is now an integral part of our District Safety Plans and our operational planning to deal with intoxicated motorists," Grant said.

"Our RBT efforts were aided last year with the launch of our first Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Unit which made it possible to do rapid on-the-spot checks to determine whether a driver is under the influence, while increasing the likelihood of a successful prosecution.

"On-the-spot testing makes it possible to release innocent suspects immediately. No blood testing is necessary. By removing the need for personnel to accompany suspects to distant testing centres, the technology also enables more law enforcement officials to be on duty at any time."

Since last year’s launch, the City of Cape Town Traffic Services has also acquired one of these units which is being used in RBT operations in the Metro.

Grant added that he was proud to announce that the department will be further boosting law enforcement power over the festive season by deploying an additional two Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Units, which have been repurposed for this function. These two units will be deployed in the Westcoast and Winelands regions, and will complement the existing two units in the Overberg and Metro region.

"One of the biggest benefits of RBT has undoubtedly been the increased awareness that has come from the enhanced visibility of our traffic officers at various locations, conducting operations," he said.

"I am confident that the RBT project will continue to change people’s behaviour, particularly around the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as the near certainty of being caught should you choose to do so and threaten the lives of other road users."

Conclusion

Provincial Traffic Services will continue to work closely with our partners over this festive season:

  • Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC);
  • Local traffic authorities;
  • Neighbouring provinces (Eastern Cape and Northern Cape);
  • South African Police Services (SAPS);
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS);
  • South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL);
  • Disaster Management;
  • Forensic Pathology Services (FPS); and
  • Fire and Rescue Services. 

The campaign is currently live on the Safely Home website, www.safelyhome.westerncape.gov.za, twitter: @WCGovSafelyHome hashtag #BoozeFreeRoads, and is supported by radio advertisements on various leading radio stations, and VMS message board messages on busy highways. 

#BoozeFreeRoads is specifically targeted at both motorists and pedestrians, with drinking and road use (driving and walking) proving to be a deadly combination on the roads.

@TheCapeArgus

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Cape Argus