Durban - A DECISION not to travel with a group of friends saved a man’s life this weekend after a crash that took seven lives. This was according to Zinhle Mngomezulu, KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson.

She said RTI officers had been at the scene of the accident and found beer bottles inside the Toyota Corolla the men had been travelling in. They believe the group of friends, all under 30, had been drinking and driving while travelling on the R164 near Appelsbosch, where the car crashed into a bakkie. All in the car died, while the bakkie’s driver survived.

Mluleki Mntungwa, KZN Transport Department spokesperson, said the bakkie driver would be interviewed as soon as he was able to talk to investigators.

Mngomezulu said they had interviewed the dead men’s friend who had told them he decided not to go with them because he had seen how drunk they were.

Saturday’s crash was one of two major accidents that happened within a period of 12 hours.

The second crash - between a Mercedes-Benz vehicle and a taxi - claimed the lives of 15 people, according to the KZN Transport Department.

Both vehicles caught alight.

Mntungwa said they were hoping to complete the process of identifying the victims by the end of the week, with forensic investigators working with the families of the dead. He said the taxi’s occupants had been travelling from a traditional ceremony in Esikhawini to Jozini. Twelve in the taxi and three in the car died. The cause of the accident was unknown at this stage.

Mngomezulu lamented that people still did not understand that drinking and driving did not mix.

The carnage happened as the department launched its festive season safety campaign over the weekend in Port Shepstone.

The campaign consisted of roadblocks manned by 100 law enforcement officers. The officers stopped about 500 vehicles, the department said.

The roadblocks netted eight taxis operating without permits, a suspected stolen minibus taxi and 12 unlicensed vehicles.

Transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda said the weekend’s accidents would not deter them from their target of reducing road crashes and fatalities by 10%.

Robert McKenzie, Emergency Medical Services spokesperson, said additional resources were being put on KZN’s roads during the festive season. He said some of these resources would be deployed at key points on the roads and would work with various law enforcement agencies.

McKenzie said people had a misperception about the effects of alcohol and reaction times. He said people who drank alcohol had a slower reaction time when driving.

Garrith Jamieson, operations director at Rescue Care Paramedics, said they had seen a spike in the number of incidents they responded to. “It was an extremely busy weekend,” he said.

Jamieson said they had expected that the number of people on the roads would increase, especially towards the coming long weekend, meaning their resources were already being stretched. They had already doubled their fleet in anticipation of the busy holiday period.

From observations, he said the major causes of crashes were drinking and driving, and speeding. This was despite the best efforts of metro police who tried to clamp down on errant drivers.

Also this weekend, 16 people were injured in a crash between a car and a minibus taxi on the P200 at Marburg near Port Shepstone, and 13 were injured when a taxi and truck collided on the N3 near Pietermaritzburg.

Daily News