A distraught relative cries at the scene of an accident that killed eThekwini Speaker Logie Naidoos driver and another man. Transport Minister Dikobe Ben Martins will have to spell out action plans to halt road carnage after about 1279 people died. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal’s Transport MEC Willies Mchunu has expressed grave concern about the high death toll on the province’s roads, which has topped 180.

It is feared the figure will rise as holidaymakers go home this weekend.

On Thursday, the Road Traffic Management Corporation put the national figure of people who died at 1 279 in 1 067 crashes.

Spokesman Ashref Ismail said the number of major fatalities, in which five or more people lost their lives in one accident, was 21.

A 16-year-old boy’s new year joyride killed him and six other teenagers when he crashed his father’s vehicle in Mpumalanga.

At the time there were 13 teenagers in the SUV. Police believe the boy lost control of the vehicle, veered off the road and crashed into a tree in New Forest.

Twins, aged 14, were among the passengers. One died while her sister survived the crash.

Ismail appealed to motorists to reduce speed according to prevailing conditions, keep a safe following distance, take regular breaks (at least once every two hours), overtake only when it was safe to do so, avoid using cellphones while driving and to look out for pedestrians and stray animals.

Mchunu said it was unfortunate that so many people had died. He attributed this mainly to human error involving excessive speed, drinking and driving and failure to obey traffic signs.

Mchunu has scheduled a high-level meeting with provincial law enforcement agencies to analyse the accident trends and hot spots.

Between 800 and 1 000 vehicles an hour were going through the Mariannhill toll plaza on Thursday afternoon.

Law enforcement agencies have upped their visibility and operations with 166 000 vehicles being stopped for roadside inspection since December 1, 2012.

Well over 52 000 written charges have been dished out involving, among others, 6 900 tickets issued for speeding and more than 1 000 people arrested for drunken driving.

A total of 3 700 motorists were found to be driving without licences, 4 500 were not wearing seat belts and 5 152 were driving unlicensed vehicles.

A further 170 motorists were arrested and fined for “inconsiderate” driving and 2 700 vehicles were found to be defective.

Pedestrians have been urged to make use of overhead bridges when crossing roads, especially freeways.

Ismail said: “The number of traffic officers patrolling the roads is going to be increased and there will also be roadside checkpoints on all the major routes.

“Our officers will continue the drinking-and-driving blitz and speed-timing operations.” - The Mercury