Pretoria - South Africa is experiencing an alarming epidemic of deaths amongst its youth due to road accidents that have killed a total of 8 547 young people between the ages of 21 and 34 years on the roads between 2019 and 2021.
This statistics collated by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) raised concerns among the public, encouraging people to maximise efforts to be alert, drive safely and operate within the confines of the law.
The worst affected category is among those aged 30 to 34 years, with 3 661 of them dying.
Spokesperson for the RTMC Simon Zwane said these alarming statistics should actually serve as a clarion call to young people to prioritise road safety.
Factors that contribute to the high number of road fatalities among the youth include persistent risk-taking behaviour such as reluctance to use safety belts, driving at speeds that are too fast and driving under the influence of alcohol.
The provinces with the highest number of youth road fatalities are Gauteng with 1 380 deaths, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 1 235 fatalities, Eastern Cape with 1 201 and Limpopo with 1 127. These four provinces account for 57.8 percent of fatalities among the youth.
Mpumalanga accounted for 968 fatalities among the youth, followed by the Western Cape with 932, Free State 830, North West 640, and the Northern Cape with 234 deaths.
The RTMC calls for high levels of consciousness about road safety among the youth as road fatalities in this sector of society has a devastating impact on the economy and the future of the country.
It has been estimated that fatal crashes cost the economy R188 billion last year based on the 10 611 fatal crashes recorded in the period with the loss of 12 545 lives.
Chief executive for the RTMC advocate Makhosini Msibi said South Africa faces a crisis on its roads and most of the victims are the economically active age group that is needed for the development of the country.
“It is saddening to read in road crash investigation reports that in most cases people die on the roads because of failure to use safety belts. In many instances it has been found that safety belts have been cut off or tied under the seats of the vehicle and thus could not be used to save lives,” said Msibi.
He called on road users, road safety advocates and law enforcement officials to join hands to reduce the rising trend of road deaths amongst young people.
Msibi said the RTMC supports the World Health Organization’s recommendations that traffic-calming measures should be constructed in areas with high pedestrian traffic to reduce vehicle speed and save lives.
Motorist Koketso Ramorwa said: "This is an indication that road accidents kill a lot of youth and it is us (the youth) who are also perpetrators in some of these accidents, especially when alcohol is involved. That is why insurance companies charge us more for cover."
Kgothatso Sithole said what was more concerning to him was that most of the young people who died on the roads were young parents, leaving children behind to grow up without parents. He said he hoped this opened the eyes of young people.
"What scares me the most is that every festive season and Easter holidays we receive reports about road carnage and fatalities but the deaths and accidents do not seem to end. It is now like an annual song we sing about safely and drinking and driving. We are in trouble," said Mathews Phasha.