File photo: Itumeleng English

Most road fatalities are caused by irresponsible human behaviourm, which highlights the need to educate communities about road safety, Transport Minister Ben Martins said on Sunday.

Speaking at the launch of the Festive Season Road Safety Campaign in Pretoria, he said the human factor accounted for 82.2

percent of deaths on the country's roads during the 2010 and 2011 festive seasons.

The main causes of the deaths were speeding, drunken driving, driver fatigue, unroadworthy vehicles and drunk pedestrians.

This meant law enforcement officers were not solely responsible for curbing accidents, but that road users themselves had to make a conscious decision not to break the law on the road, said Martins.

“Which means we should place more emphasis on education, public awareness and compliance with the law,” he said.

“The road safety campaign should therefore become a daily pre-occupation and not only during the festive and Easter seasons.”

The Justice Project SA (JPSA) has described Martins' statement as horrifying.

“Given the fact that very little traffic law enforcement for moving violations other than speeding takes place in South Africa, it is ridiculous that such a statement should be made,” said JPSA chairman Howard Dembovsky.

He said if traffic policing did not improve “we will not be seeing a 50 percent reduction on road deaths by 2020.”

“You simply cannot excuse improper and corrupt traffic law enforcement by saying 'people should comply voluntarily',” said Dembovsky.

Martins said that as part of the department's attempt to curb road deaths this festive season, it would work closely with, among others, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the Road Accident Fund, the Cross Border Road Traffic Agency, and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.

The department would also prioritise roads where there were high accident rates.

RTMC acting CEO Collins Letsoalo said it had noted the “poor human behaviour” at times when law enforcement officers were not usually on duty.

He said most fatal accidents happened between 10pm and 6am, from Thursday nights to Sunday mornings.

He was sure most fatal accidents this festive season would be head-on collisions, because drivers insisted on driving even when they were tired.

He said the country's most dangerous road was the R61, on the N6 between the N2 and Oslo Beach, south of Queenstown in the Eastern Cape.

Officials would be visible and would be ready to arrest anyone who broke the rules of the road. -Sapa