Durban – South Africa bled R142 billion as a result of cost arising from road traffic crashes that were recorded in 2015, according to a study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The findings of the study were shared on Wednesday by the CSIR’s Kobus Labuschagne to delegates at the national traffic indaba currently underway in Durban.
The study found that a total of 12 944 fatalities in 10 613 road traffic crashes were recorded by the Road Traffic management Corporation two years ago.
“The total cost of the road traffic crashes on South Africa’s road network for 2015 amounted to an estimated R142.95 billion – equal to 3.4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product,” the study said.
A breakdown of the costs showed that R99.030 billion was incurred in human casualty costs, R21.326 billion in vehicle repair costs and R22.595 billion in incident costs.
“Although it is difficult to directly benchmark South Africa’s performance against other countries a costing methodologies differ from country to country, it is clear that South Africa is not performing favourably.”
The overall R142 billion was reportedly lower than the previous amounts which had been estimated at R143 billion in 2012 and between R200 billion and R300 billion in 2011.
Addressing hundreds of traffic officers at the indaba, Labuschagne described the enormous cost of road crashes as “an elephant in the room” .
“The elephant in the room has that weight. It is a heavy weight and it is important to note that it is invisible,” he said.
Labuschagne also said there was a need to reduce the current figure to “tangible” levels.
“It is a fact that we have one of the highest fatality rates in the world. Road traffic crashes and injuries place an enormous burden on South African society as well as the economy.”
He said the billions incurred in road crashes could have been put to good use to grow the country’s economy and create jobs.
“Our government structures need everybody to be focused on achieving results. Everyone need to aim at the same thing,” he said.
Japh Chuwe, registrar of the Road Traffic Infringements Agency, said the estimated costs were potent data, scientifically determined in terms of crashes.
“This is information that was recently obtained on scientific basis,” Chuwe said.
“We need to include the average aggregate we as the people thought the value of South African life. We would be better positioned to say this is the true cost of what road crashes cost economy of this country,” he said.
The cost of road crashes on the health system was not immediately available, but it is estimated at R10 billion a year.
Professor Melvyn Freeman of the health department said there was a need to look at main causes of these crashes so that from a health point view lives and substantial health costs could be saved.
“We need to do more research on what the health costs are," Freeman said. "There is no doubt that they are a significant proportion of the total health bill.”
The health department incurred costs from road traffic crashes through having to have ambulances rush to accident scenes, treating the injured at casualty units and rehabilitate those seriously injured.
“It is important to work together with instances such as the RTMC so that we can look where there problems are and how best to intervene,” Freeman said.
Transport minister Dipuo Peters, who opened the indaba on Tuesday, had decried the high number of road traffic crashes and their associated consequences.
“The extent of the problem is exacerbated when road fatalities and injuries are seen in the context of contributing to a significant economic loss for South Africa.
“People injured or killed on our roads are often the breadwinners of their families and thus vital contributors to the economy at large,” Peters had said.