President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo

HEIDELBERG - South Africa's roads will not become safer unless people change the attitude as road users, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.

Speaking at the launch of the annual October Transport Month at the N3 weighbridge in Heidelberg in Gauteng, he said safer roads did not begin with more police and greater enforcement. 

"Safer roads begin with what we think, feel, and do as we begin our journeys as pedestrians, drivers, passengers, or cyclists. Our roads won’t become safer unless we change our attitudes as road users," Ramaphosa said.

Safer roads began with providing safe and comfortable transport for workers, instead of bundling large numbers of people onto the backs of exposed vehicles, in clear disregard of the value of life or in violation of the law.

Safer roads began with checking one's vehicles and keeping them off the road if they were not roadworthy; with understanding that no-one "owns the road" and that roads were stretches of infrastructure shared by citizens for the common benefit; and with mutual respect between law enforcement officers and road-users.

"We all have a right to safety and it is up to each of us to create that safety through our own conduct. It is up to each of us not to drink and drive. Ever. It is through our individual sense of responsibility that all of us will arrive alive, uninjured, and without any infringements, fines, or judgments against our names, all of the time," he said.

There should be no need for families to plant crosses and place flowers along pavements and roadsides. It was a cause for concern that South Africa continued to experience around 14,000 road deaths a year. In addition to the immense human cost of fatal accidents, there was a significant economic cost. Such accidents cost the country an estimated R147 billion each year. 

"We must arrest this dire situation for the sake of preserving the health of our people and the productivity of our country. In recognition of these challenges, South Africa has committed itself to the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which seeks to reduce road fatalities and injuries," he said. 

As part of this commitment, government had introduced several measures that would usher in a fundamental change in the manner in which road traffic safety issues were addressed. 

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act was one of the interventions to forge a more effective and efficient link between enforcement and a transparent and fair adjudication process. 

The Act promoted responsible behaviour on the roads through the creation of a demerit system, which introduced meaningful consequences for reckless, negligent, and inconsiderate conduct.

With this, South Africa was joining a growing number of countries worldwide where the consequences of infringements and offences were felt in the pockets, livelihoods, and lives of those who broke the law.

Ramaphosa also expressed concern about the persistence of vandalism of public assets in various parts of the country, and commuters’ vulnerability to crime when they used public transport.

"During this October Transport Month, we reinvite South Africans to use public transport, to share vehicles, to cycle and to walk where feasible, not only to reduce congestion and carbon emissions, but as part of engaging with each other as citizens who share a wonderful country," he said.

African News Agency