Cape Town - Only harsher penalties will deter drunk drivers, said provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa as the holiday season death toll since the beginning of December hit 91.
Africa said 47 of the casualties - more than 50 percent - were pedestrians, 17 were passengers, 25 drivers and two motorcyclists. The department was doing all it could to keep the toll as low as possible, he added, but driver behaviour and pedestrians were cause for concern.
“Pedestrians are a major problem and a matter of great concern to us," he said, "but motorists and the public don’t want to change their behaviour.”
Africa said the department ran a number of awareness campaigns, conducted road blocks and also blood-alcohol level testing, fining motorists and arresting drunk drivers.
“The Western Cape is the only province that operates 24/7," he said. "We have officers working around the clock and are doing their utmost.
“The justice department should come on board. People drinking and driving shouldn’t get away with just a fine. More serious consequences should be administered."
The traffic chief said 30-40 a week people are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
“It’s still early days," Africa said. "Motorists should adopt an attitude of being respectful on the roads. Also, long distance drivers should rest after every 200 kilometres or every two hours to avoid fatigue.”
The Automobile Association's Layton Beard said motorists had adopted a culture of impunity.
“Poor driver behaviour is the leading cause of crashes in the country," he said, "combined with an increase in traffic in holiday destinations. The more drivers, the more vehicles and the higher probability of crashes.”
Beard said alcohol was another contributing element.
“There is a belief among drivers that if they don’t see traffic officials they can use the road as they please," he said. "We need to develop a society that says ‘I must drive better even if no one is watching’. Motorists need to monitor themselves."
In the past holiday season from 1 December 2016 to 31 January 2017, 248 lives were lost on Western Cape roads. Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for transport and public works MEC Donald Grant, said while the number showed a decrease in overall fatalities, it was still too high.
“The lives that we lose at this time, year-on-year, remain a painful reminder of horrors experienced on our roads, and the work that must still be done to make our roads safer for all who use them,” he said.
The South African National Roads Agency Limited said roadworks had largely been suspended in the western region of the province.
“While there is no road construction work under way on the N2 between Caledon and Riviersonderend, motorists should take note of the fact that the lanes may be narrower as a result of the construction process. This area should still be treated as a construction site and speed should be adjusted accordingly."