902 A crime scene expert takes pictures of the scene on 7th street in Linden where 3 men tried to hijack a woman after a chase with the police that started in Robindale. 190208. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cape Town - A group of people are grateful to be alive after the bus they were travelling in was involved in a crash along with five other vehicles.

The crash happened on the N1 near Stellenbosch on Thursday afternoon.

Indran Naidoo, his wife Marlini Naidoo and their son Melvin were travelling back to Durban with family and friends when a veld fire caused poor visibility on the highway.

Naidoo said: “There was thick smoke over the highway and before we knew it a white Ford Fiesta came from the right side and stopped in front of the bus.

“Our driver swerved to avoid it but it was also hit by other cars when it came to a stop.”

Naidoo, Melvin, Ralden Moodley and other passengers got out of the bus and tried to help an elderly couple out of their car.

They managed to get one person out before they saw a grey car coming towards them at great speed.

Moodley said: “The car came flying towards us. I tried to run away but it hit me on the side. I was very scared.”

Moodley was checked by paramedics at the scene and he was told he would be fit to carry on with the journey back to Durban.

“My whole left side is numb but I am glad to be alive.”

Marlini Naidoo said she was thankful that everyone was safe.

“We have to thank God for keeping everyone safe. I was very worried because my son (Melvin) was sitting in the front.”

Jacques Mostert, a spokesman for the provincial traffic department, said the six-vehicle pile-up was caused by poor visibility.

“Two people were trapped inside their vehicle and they used Jaws of Life to get them out. They are in a critical condition and have been airlifted to hospital.”

Meanwhile, an advanced driving skills company said on Thursday that the number of road deaths between December 1 and 30 was higher than last year and the toll for the entire holiday period was likely to be the highest since 2007.

There were 1 184 deaths over this period, or 39.5 deaths a day, www.driving.co.za managing director Rob Handfield-Jones said.

“This exceeds the record figure of 38 a day for the 2012 festive season. The Christmas period for 2013/14 will end on January 13, by which time I expect the death toll to be 1 736 deaths, based on past and current trends.”

Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) spokeswoman Thato Mosena said Handfield-Jones should not create the impression the corporation was not doing enough, because road safety was a collective effort.

“We need all role-players to join hands to reduce road deaths,” she said.

Handfield-Jones, who has monitored road deaths during the Christmas and Easter periods since 2007, believed the current figure could rise by between 15 and 20 percent after the 30-day waiting period for road deaths had lapsed. This meant the 2013/14 festive season could become the first with more than 2 000 road deaths.

The main reason for road deaths increasing over the festive season was the failure of the government to provide road safety leadership, he said.

According to the Transport Department and RTMC, the preliminary road deaths for previous years over this period were: 2007: 1 142 people (the final figure was 1 535); 2008: 937; 2009: 1 050; 2010: 1 358; 2011: 1 232; and 2012: 1 279.

The final death toll figures for the Decembers since 2007 were higher than the preliminary figure.

“People only drive as badly as their governments allow them to,” Handfield-Jones said.

“In the US and UK, government road safety systems are aimed at improving competence.”

South Africa, Handfield-Jones believed, was the opposite.

“Licensing is a corrupt mess, with probably half of all licences issued fraudulently,” he said, which created a culture of bribery among drivers.

To fix the problem, Handfield-Jones believed the government needed to fix the poor gathering of road safety data, overhaul the licensing system and prioritise law enforcement for moving violations.

“As long as the key priority of law enforcers is revenue generation rather than safety, South Africa’s road deaths will continue to mount,” he said.

Mosena said road safety began at a community level.

“We need to start at a community level to spread and enforce the message that road safety is a priority, and we must reduce road deaths.”

Cape Argus