File picture: Phando Jikelo / Independent Media.

Pretoria - South Africa’s festive season road death toll increased by 5.6 percent, versus the same period last year, to 1612.

This and other shocking statistics were announced during the preliminary Festive Season Road Safety report, delivered on Wednesday by Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande.

The report covers the period from 1 December 2018 to 8 January 2019, whereas the 2017/2018 report covered 1 Dec to 9 Jan.

KwaZulu-Natal recorded the most fatalities, at 328, followed by the Eastern Cape (238), Gauteng (219), Limpopo (178), Mpumalanga (162), Free State (159), Western Cape (149), North West (125) and Northern Cape (54).

Only two provinces saw a decrease in the number of road deaths, with Gauteng figures down by a commendable 19 percent and the North West by 2 percent.

Among the largest increases in fatalities, the Northern Cape saw an 80 percent surge, albeit off a low base, while the Free State and Eastern Cape recorded respective increases of 28 percent and 22 percent.

Passengers accounted for 36 percent of road fatalities nationwide, followed by pedestrians (35 percent), drivers (27 percent) and cyclists (2 percent).

These latest road carnage figures come in spite of a claimed increase in law enforcement, with the Minister stating that 775 roadblocks were conducted across the country, up from 414 the previous year, while 1.358 vehicles were stopped and checked, versus 1.28m the year before.

Furthermore, 4016 vehicles were taken off the road versus 3809 the previous year, 765 009 fines were issued (up from 290 023) and 8057 arrests were made, versus last year's 6441.

Nzimande blamed behaviours such as drinking and driving, recklessness and negligence (including unsafe overtaking), distraction, fatigue, unroadworthy vehicles and stray animals.

Yet as far as we are concerned, unless there is a significant change in the general attitude of motorists, South Africa’s roads will remain among the most dangerous in the world for many years to come.

IOL Motoring