Durban - South Africa’s road deaths, which average 14 000 every year and are among the highest in the world, have been described as a national crisis by the AA.
Besides the staggering human death toll, the economic cost of fatal accidents is estimated at R147 billion, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed at an October Transport Month in 2019.
The carnage on South Africa’s roads was once again brought into focus at the weekend when six people were killed and 50 were injured in a bus crash on the notorious Moloto Road in Pretoria on Friday.
Two days later, musician and Trompies member Emmanuel Matsane – popularly known as “Mjokes” – died in a car crash.
The AA said that South Africa’s 10-year road statistics from 2008, during which time 135 000 people died, were an indictment on the country’s road safety initiatives which were “simply not working”.
“This (135 000 deaths) is a shocking number which, without urgent intervention, genuine commitment from all role-players and a complete change in the attitude of all road users, will never significantly decrease.
“It is noted that the ‘stabilising’ of the fatality rate at just over 14 000 deaths per annum is unacceptable, and should be seen as a national crisis. A reversal of this can only be achieved through the implementation of several key plans. A key focus must be on pedestrians,” the association said.
Speaking at the 2019 Transport month, Ramaphosa said that the country needed to “arrest this dire situation for the sake of preserving the health of our people and the productivity of our country”.
According to the government, most accidents are caused by excessive speed, driving with fatigue, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with vehicles that are not roadworthy, and negligence of traffic rules.
South Africa has committed itself to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, which seeks to reduce road fatalities and injuries.
Earlier this year, Ramaphosa signed into law the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act which the government hopes will radically change driver behaviour on our roads.
The Aarto Act promotes responsible behaviour on roads through the creation of a demerit system which will see the book thrown at motorists who are reckless, negligent and inconsiderate in their conduct.
Under the demerit, drivers risk losing their licences if they repeatedly commit driving offences.
Among the more notable aspects of the law, which comes into effect in June, are strict rules around drunk driving, which will prohibit the consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on South African public roads.
The Aarto Act provides for a system whereby a person, operator or company (“juristic person”) pays the penalty and incurs points when a traffic infringement is committed.
The demerit points are allocated to the operators and owners of motor vehicles. If a vehicle is suspended, it may not be sold or used on a public road.
If an operator or juristic person does sell a vehicle, or scrap or export such vehicle, the demerit points will remain against the record of the operator/juristic person and be allocated to the next vehicle the company purchases.
However, vehicles are not punished by the system – only the driver/juristic person is held responsible for the use of its vehicle.