File picture: Armand Hough / Independent Media.

Johannesburg - At least 767 people have been killed in vehicle accidents so far this festive season, up 16 percent on the same period last year, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande announced on Thursday.

"What stands out quite glaringly is that many vehicles involved in fatal crashes had a high number of occupants and with most crashes occurring between 7pm and 8pm and between 10pm and 11pm. Since December the 1st, the majority of crashes happened on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,'' said Nzimande.

KwaZulu-Natal recorded 162 deaths, the highest in South Africa. It was followed by Gauteng at 125, Limpopo and Eastern Cape at 89 each, while Mpumalanga recorded 82 deaths. The Western Cape recorded 81 road deaths, Free State 78, North West 57 and Northern Cape the lowest with 24 deaths.

Light vehicles contributed 47 percent to the total crashes, followed by light delivery vehicles at 21 percent, minibus taxis at 7 and trucks 5.

Said Nzimande: ''Since the beginning of our heightened road safety programme, we've had 44 fatalities from crashes involving five minibus taxis and trucks. Minibus operators must consider having two drivers to relieve each other during long distance journeys to avoid fatigue. This is a small price to pay to avoid the untold misery and pain that families and society [experience].''

Traffic officers conducted more than 356 roadblocks throughout the country since December 1 and issued over 300 000 fines for various traffic offences. Nzimande said over 10 000 of the fines were issued to drivers who did not have licenses.

''Of particular interest is that 10 666 of these fines were for drivers who did not have a driving licence while 9620 were for drivers who did not fasten seat belts, 8481 for driving unlicensed vehicles, 5811 for driving vehicles with worn tyres and 3039 for overloading of goods. About 1402 unroadworthy vehicles were suspended or discontinued while 1310 other motor vehicles were impounded.''

Around 2837 motorists were arrested for various traffic law violations, with 1109 of them nabbed for driving while drunk. Five drivers were arrested for speeding. The highest recorded speed was in the Free State where a motorist was arrested near Warden travelling at 228km/h along the N3.

African News Agency (ANA)