22/10/2002 - Traffic laser. Metro Police aspirant sergean,t Manie Van Zyl, with the new laser speed prosecuting device. Speeding camera. Picture: Thys Dullaart

Johannesburg - Traffic enforcement authorities should move their emphasis from speed to moving violations, to reduce fatalities and cut the cost of crashes.

This is the view of the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), which cited the rise in crash costs since 1998.

“Crashes cost the country R42.5 billion in 1998, rising to over R300 billion last year,” said an AA spokesperson.

“Over the same period traffic fatalities rose from 9068 in 1998 to at least 15 000 last year, although the real death toll is currently unknown – government has not released annual death tolls since 2011.”

The AA said the focus of enforcement had long been on prosecuting speeding offences, but this does not seem to be generating safety and financial returns.

“We have been saturating ‘Speed Kills’ messages since the start of the Arrive Alive campaign in 1997, but where are the results?” the AA asked.

The international road safety leaders, such as the US and the UK, have achieved their position as a result of enforcement of basic road safety rules – which were often disregarded in South Africa.

“Speed prosecution is warranted when a motorist’s speed is inappropriate for the circumstances, but we don’t support the blanket statement that speed kills as there is little evidence to support it. What kills is dangerous driving,” said the AA.

The AA singled out several areas for better enforcement, including illegal licences, dangerous overtaking, following too closely, roadworthiness, traffic light violations, and safety checks before manoeuvring.

The organisation also said it believed an emphasis on moving violations could reduce traffic fatalities and costs by half, possibly saving the country more than R150bn a year.

It said the cash-strapped positions of many municipalities forced them into prosecution strategies in which revenue took priority over safety, and a re-think was needed for the sake of the country as a whole.

“Speed prosecution had not achieved the anticipated safety results and had merely become a revenue generator,” concluded the AA.