The lack of solid central barriers on many of South Africa's national routes increases the fatal collision risk exponentially. File picture: Karen Sandison / African News Agency (ANA).
Johannesburg - While most of the carnage on South Africa’s roads is due to drunk driving and general human error, the state of some national roads are also to blame.

This is according to researcher and accident specialist Craig Proctor-Parker, who believes it is shocking that some national route networks are still without solid barriers separating traffic travelling in opposite directions, causing devastating collisions.

He warns motorists to be cautious as many accidents occur on such roads. “Cars are travelling at high speed on these roads. These are high accident zones. If the government implements solid barriers, it will immediately reduce the number of collisions. It’s an expensive exercise but it’s very effective.”

In October, authorities were alarmed after 30 people were killed in a multi-car collision on a stretch of the N1 between Kranskop toll plaza and Modimolle - without solid barriers - in Limpopo.

The accident occurred when the front tyre of a truck burst, causing it to hit oncoming traffic.

Sanral’s northern region manager, Progress Hlahla, says erecting barriers may not be feasible on most roads. “For a barrier to be erected and to function safely, enough width and working space is required.

“Technically, in terms of the current cross-section of the road, erecting a barrier in the short term will not be feasible as it will reduce the width of the two opposite inside lanes and create an increased likelihood of danger and harm to motorists.”

In the interim, Sanral has installed cameras and message boards to monitor speed in critical sections of national roads without barriers.

“The cameras are carefully calibrated, and the technology can recognise the vehicle’s number plate. Time-stamped pictures are taken at both locations. Should the vehicle pass by the second camera in a shorter time than what it should, given the speed limit, it indicates that the driver was speeding.”

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande recently told the Saturday Star that he will instruct Sanral to look at roads experiencing persistent problems and implement relevant measures.

“Sometimes we find it easy to build new roads and forget to maintain existing roads,” Nzimande said.

The government will also allocate special grants to upgrade existing roads.

No database of dangerous roads

Proctor-Parker says the country’s failure to keep a proper database of the most dangerous roads is a setback.

“There are certain sub-roads, especially in the rural areas, that are killing people every year but nothing is done because there is no record of how accidents happen and what should be done to prevent them. They just clear accidents and move on.”

Meanwhile, Arrive Alive spokesperson Johan Jonck says corruption in licensing departments was undermining efforts to fight road carnage.

“Road safety is not something you can switch off and on again during the festive season.

“Traffic officers issue incompetent drivers licences, because they receive bribes. You simply won’t be able to win the battle if our laws are not tightened.”

The latest report released by the World Health Organisation has revealed that road traffic deaths continue to rise with an annual 1.35 million fatalities.

In the report, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

“These deaths are an unacceptable price to pay for mobility. There is no excuse for inaction.

This is a problem with proven solutions. This report is a call for governments and partners to take much greater action to implement these measures.”

Saturday Star