Pretoria - Right in the midst of Transport Month, 28 people were killed in a horrific multi-vehicle crash on the N1 between Mookgophong and Modimolle in Limpopo.
Transport Minister Blade Nzimande had launched the event in Joburg, during which he took a ride and had first-hand experience in public transport operations and hinted that the services were pathetic and required serious intervention and improvement.
A few hours after the Limpopo crash, Limpopo MEC for Roads and Transport Lehlogonolo Masoga called on Sanral and the National Transport Department to intervene in the province’s dire road construction infrastructure in a bid to reduce crashes.
But are the National Department of Transport and Sanral really to blame? Bad driver attitude, unroadworthy vehicles, and lack of respect for road signs, unsafe overtaking and drunk-driving continue to cause horrific crashes.
Poor traffic police visibility and a lack of roadblocks is a cause for concern. What is normal is that during Transport Month provinces embark on key transport events aimed at improving the use of public transport, road and rail infrastructure maintenance and other projects.
The last four years have witnessed a lack of intensive road safety measures as part of government and safety authorities to reduce the carnage.
Road Safety should feature prominently on national and provincial road and transport departmental campaigns and events as road deaths are proving to be one of the biggest killers along with TB, HIV/Aids and malaria.
Trucks, taxis, buses and private vehicles often speed along the N1, disregarding the warning signs such as “High Accident Zone” alerts. Speeding on national roads often leaves very little room for drivers to manoeuvre in the face of oncoming danger.
While we mourn every month the loss of loved ones, the inevitable question is when and how will motorists heed the call to prioritise road safety?
A soft spot for transgressors
And, when will traffic authorities implement legislation that will transform the attitudes of transgressors and arrest the rising trend of traffic deaths and injuries?
Spot fines and impounding of unroadworthy vehicles works well in other countries, but in South Africa we seem to have a very soft spot for traffic transgressors.
Transport, taxi and bus indabas are fine to sensitise people but more often the ideas are left at the venue, and those at the steering wheel pay little heed and so the fatal accidents go on.
As the clock ticks to 2020, the UN prescribed deadline for a reduction in road traffic accidents is not working.
Africa’s roads were reported to be of the world’s worst and there is no meaningful decline in South Africa’s road carnage, with a solution nowhere in sight.
In South Africa road deaths account for more than 14 000 fatalities a year.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, 90% of road crashes are the result of lawlessness.
They are foreseeable and preventable. Whether as a result of human factors (aggression, negligence or inconsiderate behaviour), vehicle factors and/or road conditions, these accidents should not happen.
A co-ordinated approach by all road users is needed to conquer the rising trend of fatal road crashes if the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety’s resolutions are to be achieved.
Gozhi is the managing director of Spin Africa Media and publisher of the Transport Tribune and Aviation 360 magazines.