Johannesburg - Driver and pedestrian behaviour on Gauteng’s roads is not changing for the better, causing the holiday season carnage to overtake that of 2016.
Community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane has revealed that fatalities on the province’s roads have already jumped past the 203 recorded last year.
“We’ve exceeded last year’s figures of the festive season,” she said. “We’re at a number we never expected.”
Nkosi-Malobane would not reveal the precise number of deaths on the roads so far, saying that would be done by transport minister Joe Maswanganyi in January.
Maswanganyi will announce the number of fatalities recorded across all provinces. The figure stood at 1714 for the 2016 holiday season, which was a five percent increase compared to 2015. The country experiences a large number of fatalities over the Easter period too.
With the festive season not yet over, Gauteng authorities fear that fatalities in the province could be much higher than in 2016. Thousands of motorists will drive back to the province in January.
According to Simon Zwane, spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation, traffic to Gauteng has started to peak.
“As we speak, there’s a number of vehicles coming back to Gauteng," he said. "Already there’s about 1200 vehicles an hour leaving KwaZulu-Natal for Gauteng.”
Expressing her fears that road deaths could shoot up, Nkosi-Malobane said: “We still have New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and the first Sunday of the year. So we’re worried. We don’t want to lose any more lives. What we’ve already experienced now is enough.”
She decried the behaviour of both motorists and pedestrians.
“We’ve called this media briefing to say to our people: please behave," she said. “The main contributing factors to our fatalities are speed as well as drinking and driving - and to a certain extent, texting and driving.
"Our people don’t have respect for rules of the road. We’re also worried that many of the people involved in road fatalities or accidents are young people between the ages of 18 and 35.”
Just this week, traffic officers arrested two 18-year-old girls for driving at almost 140km/h in 80km/h zones.
“If you drive like that you’re applying for death,” Nkosi-Malobane said. “We now know who are the culprits. The culprits are young men and women under the age of 35.”
Chief director of Gauteng traffic police Stephen Podile said pedestrians made up half of the lives that had been lost in Gauteng, while Nkosi-Malobane said many of the pedestrians knocked down were drunk.
The Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Pretoria traffic police departments said their officers had done all within their power to reduce fatalities. More than 500 motorists have been arrested in Johannesburg for drunk driving since the holiday season started, they reported. Police have identified Sandton in particular as a hotspot for drunk driving, and have increased visibility.
Tshwane metro police chief Basil Nkhwashu said his officers had “targeted places of entertainment, especially Sunnyside”, while Ekurhuleni metro police chief Goodman Mzolo said their operations around taverns and clubs had been useful.
“Our presence discourages drunk driving,” he said.