Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Media.

Pretoria - Vehicle owners, particularly business entities in the transport sector, must accept blame and face harsh repercussions for the perennial loss of live on the roads, which was partly caused by their use of unroadworthy vehicles in their fleet, new Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said on Friday.

Maswanganyi made the remarks in Pretoria, as he announced the 2017 preliminary Easter road death statistics. Earlier indications so far show that more than 230 people were killed on South African roads during the recent Easter period, with the overall fatalities figure ballooning by 51 percent compared to same period last year.

“In total, the number of fatalities increased by 79 (51 percent) from 156 over the same period the previous year to 235 this year. However, this year’s fatalities are still significantly lower than the 333 fatalities recorded in 2015,” Maswanganyi said as he addressed a media briefing in Pretoria.

“Our preliminary report shows that many people who died on our roads were victims of hit-and-run incidents, jaywalking or motorists who were driving at speeds that were too high for circumstances.”

He said the report also revealed a new pattern in which crashes shifted from the identified historical hotspots into new routes and built-up areas at time periods that previously did not have high number of crashes.

“Very glaringly, most crashes and fatalities happened in residential areas and remote areas and very interestingly, from 23h00, midnight, until 05h00 in the morning. This new phenomenon requires of us to spread our wings jointly informed by uniform working norms and standards,” said Maswanganyi.

“Our statistics show that fatalities increased in all provinces with exception of Free State.”

Maswanganyi said given this escalating road death toll, drivers generally suffered the consequences of the crashes but they were often sitting ducks, employed to work in unsafe vehicles.

“The people who bear the brunt in most cases are the drivers, especially when it comes to taxis and buses. I think Aarto will assist us, the operators or the owners will have to take responsibility. If it is about opening police cases, it should not only be the drivers. The bus accident in KwaZulu Natal, it was not only the driver’s fault. It was the operator’s fault because I’m told the bus had faulty brakes,” said Maswanganyi.

Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi with Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane at a media briefing in Pretoria on Friday. PHOTO: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

“Most of the buses you find on the roads are not serviced regularly as is required by law. They do not have proper brake systems, the tyres are worn out or they use rethreads. In cases where we find that the vehicles that has caused an accident, whatever the driver could have done, it [the accident] was unavoidable, the operator or the owner should take responsibility. It is wrong to say we are going to arrest only the drivers, they are employees. They are some buses which you can’t tell whether they are coming or going, on the road.”

Maswanganyi said the trend was also rife in the trucking business.

“It is high time we take to task owners or operators of the vehicles on the road,” he said.

The Easter period saw a remarkable increase in the number of vehicles on the roads across the country.

“The total number of registered vehicles on the 31st of March stood at 12 047 404 compared to 11 818 124 in the same period of 2016. The number of registered drivers had increased by 507 002 presenting a new total of 12 283 777,” said Maswanganyi.

“A total of 174,253 vehicles were stopped and checked with the intention to remove unroadworthy vehicles from our roads in all provinces.”

Like in previous years, human factors remained a causal factor for most of the crashes during the recent Easter period.

“Our statistics indicates that people who died on the roads this Easter were passengers at 50 percent, followed by pedestrians at 24.5 percent, drivers at 19,8 percent and cyclists at 5.7 percent. The vehicle types that made a high contribution to fatal crashes were motorcars and LDVs (light delivery vehicles), with contributions of 49 percent and 20 percent respectively,” said Maswanganyi.

Minibus type vehicles contributed more than seven percent and buses added a 1.1 percent, which indicated that most of the passengers who died were travelling in motorcars.

African News Agency (ANA)