Waterfront crash Photo by Leon Knipe

IT IS a sad fact of life in South Africa that every year in December and January we play a macabre numbers game. We add up how many people are dead on our roads – 59 in the Western Cape since the first of December.

By the time you read this, there may well be more than 59 people dead as tens of thousands of upcountry and foreign tourists stream to the party capital of South Africa, joining the many Capetonians also celebrating the end of their year. It’s a heady and potentially lethal brew.

Yesterday, we ran a particularly graphic photograph on our front page. It was of the mangled wreck of a new BMW that had wiped out at high speed in the 60km/h zone at the V&A Waterfront killing a young woman passenger.

All too often it is high speed, reckless driving, the abuse of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of all of these that cause tragedy on our roads. Add to this driver fatigue, particularly among truck drivers on long haul journeys on our national roads, and we have a series of disasters waiting to happen.

Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle is one of our more energetic and visible provincial ministers, actively involving himself in law enforcement operations, and coming up with creative ideas to bring down the number of deaths on our roads. And he and the more than 1 000 traffic officers in the province are making progress.

As he pointed out in a letter to the Cape Times last week, “From January 2009 to November 2012 we have reduced fatalities (in the Western Cape) from 1 739 per 12 month period to 1 243 – a reduction of 29 percent. Our fatality statistics are indeed deadly accurate. They are provided by... the mortuary services.”

That is a great achievement. But there is clearly more to be done, as has been highlighted by the public response to the debate in this newspaper and on radio around drivers who drive through red traffic lights.

With a visible police presence, especially at this time of the year; tough action, not only against bus, taxi and lorry drivers who break the rules but, crucially, against those who employ them and encourage them to do so; and renewed efforts to remind all drivers of the dangers of fatigue and of alcohol and drug abuse, little by little our roads can cease to be death traps.