STOP AND GO: As the festive season nears, motorists should brace themselves for more roadblocks, during which inspection of vehicles and licences will be done, and motorists will be checked for drunk driving. Picture: Antoine de Ras / Independent Media.
Johannesburg - As the festive season fast approaches, so does the dreaded period of mass road fatalities.

To tackle the scourge, traffic authorities and a safety advocate have called for caution.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) on Tuesday said it would be increasing visibility and roadblocks on the country’s major routes.

“During this time we’ll address the issues of pedestrians, reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol,” spokesperson Simon Zwane said. “This time, we’ll also deal with fatigued drivers.”

Special attention would be paid to national routes between the Western Cape and Eastern Cape; between Gauteng and the Eastern Cape and Durban; and routes heading to northern parts of the country.

Asked if enough was being done to curb fatalities, Zwane said several arrests had been made and convictions secured.

Much still needs to change

Caro Smit, the director of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, said a lot needed to be changed in the system if the government was to successfully tackle road fatalities.

“We feel there should be much more testing done on drivers,” she said. “Every single traffic officer and every police vehicle should have a breathalyser in it. Currently, they don’t. Drivers are not tested enough.”

She added that courts needed to secure many more convictions in order to send out a strong message.

“The conviction rate should be much higher. The police and traffic officers need to do their paperwork better so that these convictions stand out in court. Every person found guilty should have their licence suspended, which is allowed,” Smit said. “It needs to be seen as the serious crime it is.”

Added to this was that paperwork was done badly.

“The other thing is that cases take a long time to get to court, and if they get there, they are struck off the roll. What we need is the evidential breathalyser - which is now legal again. It’s being used in the Western Cape but needs to be used throughout the country, so that when people appear in court they can be convicted there and then because the results are accurate,” she said.

The Road Accident Fund (RAF) yesterday said 1 120 more people died on the roads in 2016 than in 2015. This was a 9% increase, “and the figures may increase in 2017”.

Despite this, the RAF said, road users persisted in disobeying rules. These included not using seatbelts for their children; texting while driving; walking drunk on the side of the road; refusing to take two-hourly rest breaks during a long trip; and speeding in order to pick up the next taxi load of passengers.

RAF chief marketing officer Phumelela Dhlomo said the fund had launched an education campaign to address the scourge.

“This campaign appeals to people’s emotions. We are saying to road users, ‘just remember all these people who have died in road tragedies’. Each and every person knows someone who has passed on in the road - be it they were pedestrians, drivers or passengers. We need to remember those people and also ensure that that doesn’t just end there. We should then change our behaviour on the road.”

The Star