Johannesburg Metro cop with a motorist who commited a traffic offence in the center of Johannesburg city. 061008 Pic:Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - More than 2100 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol since December 1, the transport department said on Wednesday.

“This can't be normal... (between) December 1 and today (January 2), over 2100 people were arrested for drunk driving,” said spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso.

“Families and the economy continue to suffer and bleed because we are losing manpower when people are killed in accidents. The department is concerned because we continue to witness unnecessary loss of lives.”

In the accidents over the festive season, alcohol and excessive speed were “common denominators” in many of the fatal crashes.

“We need to remove habitual offenders from our roads - they are turning our roads into killing fields,” he said.

“Some horrific fatal crashes on our roads are a result of negligence and reckless driving, where some fool decided to drink, get into a car and drive - and wipe out a whole family.”

On Monday, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) announced that 1207 people were killed in 1006 accidents since the beginning of December.

The festive season period starts on December 1 and ends on January 10. He said a realistic figure of how many people died on the roads would only be available after January 10.

Rikhotso said the department relied on the police to verify the numbers.

Road users had failed South Africa, not the plan to halve the festive season death toll by 2015, RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail said on Wednesday.

“In general the plan is working... If anyone failed, it's the road users that failed,” Ismail said.

“People must learn to behave, because only 80 percent of motorists are complying: others are aggressive and hostile.

“It is too early to say if the plan is working or not. Let the campaign run its course. We will come up with the necessary comparisons after the campaign.”

He was responding to a report in The Star on Wednesday that the road traffic safety management plan had failed.

The newspaper reported that during the December 2006/January 2007 festive period the death toll was 1261.

In 2008, the transport department announced a plan to halve this figure by 2015.

Rikhotso said co-operation and partnerships between government departments on provincial and national levels, as well as civil society and the private sector, was needed to decrease the number of deaths on the road.

He said the department was looking at strengthening road regulations and procedures for people to get driver's licences.

The department was also working with the department of justice to obtain stronger sentences and fines for people convicted of road-related offences.

“Once judgment has been handed down for serious road-related offences, those people are prohibited from driving on our roads and their licences are taken away, and they have to re-apply,” Rikhotso said.

On the first day of 2013, 18 people died and 17 were injured in various accidents across the country, according to a tally of accidents from Sapa reports.

Four people were killed and three others injured when a delivery van collided with a cyclist in Krugersdorp, on the West Rand.

Five people were killed and three others seriously injured in a drag racing crash in Kagiso on the West Rand.

Four people died in two accidents on Voortrekker Road in Kensington, Cape Town.

In Pietermaritzburg, two people died and three others were injured in a head-on collision.

Three people were killed and two others injured on the M13, Johannesburg, when their bakkie overturned. A 28-year-old woman was critically injured when a car overturned on the N2 between Shaka's Rock and Ballito.

In the Eastern Cape, four people in an ambulance, including two paramedics, were injured when they crashed while transporting a patient.

And a five-year-old child suffered serious injuries when the car she was in collided head-on with another car near the Grasmere toll plaza in the Vaal region. - Sapa