A paramedic attends to an overturned car on the N4, were five people were killed, four critical and three seriously injured during the road crash saturday. Picture:Netcare 911

What's even scarier than the stated figures of 676 people killed in 564 crashes on South Africa's roads during the first 18 days of December, is that the number of fatalities is actually understated.

Not only is it over 12 percent higher than the number killed in the same period during 2011, but it's still going to be amended upwards.

This is because for the past four years, the Road Traffic Management Corporation has been adhering to the '30 Days' protocol mandated by the UN's World Health Organisation.

What that means is that any person who is injured in a car crash, and dies from those injuries within 30 days of the accident, will be added to the list of fatalities for the period during which that crash happened.


This actually happened yesterday in Cape Town, when a second victim of a crash in Dock Road on 9 December succumbed to his injuries - so the number in the top line of this story is now known to be wrong by at least one.

Authorities estimate that the number of people who survive a road accident and are admitted to hospital, only to die of their injuries within a month, is between 0.7 percent and seven percent, depending on who you talk to.

Either way, the picture is bleak. Even if it's less than one percent, by the time the death toll on our roads is tallied up in the first week of February 2013, it will be a lot higher than in 2011.

And each time political appointees throw around numbers and percentage, we have to remember that every one of those numbers is somebody's child, somebody's parent, and that, as bleak a picture as they paint, the truth is even worse.