The Police and Prisons Civil Right Union (Popcru) has called for an overhaul of traffic law enforcement to curb road fatalities.
Some of the measures proposed by the union include employing more traffic officers, centralising policy-making, remuneration and improved working conditions and road infrastructure.
To discuss the matters, the union has proposed a meeting with Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga in a bid to find solutions to the country’s road carnage which has shown a marked improvement in fatalities following a decline of 2.3%.
Two weeks ago, during a briefing, the minister said more than 1 400 people had died on SA’s roads over the festive season; 40.9% of them were pedestrians, 33.6% passengers, 24.6% drivers and 0.8% cyclists.
Popcru said it was seeking an urgent meeting with the Department of Transport, with the union president, Thulani Ngwenya, saying he has invited the minister to discuss a comprehensive strategy to unify the country’s many traffic divisions and bolster their abilities to protect the country’s roads.
“We welcome honourable Minister Chikunga’s promise during her recent festive season statistics media briefing to meet with Popcru to discuss how we can improve traffic law enforcement countrywide. After extensive consultations with our traffic police members, and receiving valuable input from academics, researchers and community organisations during the 2023 Policing Indaba, we have put together a list of key focus areas and implementable solutions that could make our roads safer and save lives,” he said.
Ngwenya said there had to be a comprehensive strategy that involved traffic officials who were doing a commendable job keeping the roads safe.
“As South Africans, we must all recognise the tireless efforts of our traffic officials who, while facing incredible difficulties, are keeping road incidents as low as possible with limited numbers and resources. So, if government wishes to make a significant impact on these road incident statistics a year from now, during the next festive season, there are several national reformations that must be made.”
Ngwenya said one of the areas of improvement would be to nationalise traffic policing and centralising its policy-making processes which is one of the recommendations made during last year’s Popcru conference in Durban.
The second recommendation Popcru seeks to advance to the minister includes bolstering the number oftraffic police officers on SA roads.
Ngwenya said the union was alarmed by the low number of traffic officers. The latest figures indicated that the country’s 60 million citizens relied on 15 000 traffic officials. That translated to one official responsible for the safety of an average of 4 000 South Africans, each safeguarding more than 400km of road.
“This small amount of traffic officials cannot be everywhere at once, and they cannot work all hours of the day. Additionally, some of these members are office-bound staff, further reducing the number of boots on the ground,” Ngwenya said.
Additional issues Popcru intended to discuss with the minister, included a lack of uniforms and equipment; extended working hours with little to no compensation; conditions of service; work-related risk factors; upward mobility within the traffic law enforcement structure; and deteriorating road conditions.
This week, the Road Safety Partnership South Africa (RSP-SA) commended the minister for achieving a 1.7% decrease in road fatalities over festive season which it said equated to 24 lives that were spared.
“In January, Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga revealed there was a 1.7% and 2.3% decrease in road fatalities and fatal crashes respectively. These stats sparked heated debate over whether the decrease is something of which to be proud … A 1.7% decrease does seem small but one must never forget this is also 24 human lives that were spared.
“While 1.7% is disappointing for some, the bigger picture provides more hope. Over the last five years, there was only one increase in road fatalities over the Festive Season with four years of decreases. The 1 427 people that lost their lives on the road, while tragic, is still less than pre-Covid-19 levels of 1 617 fatalities in 2019,” the RSP-SA said.
Attempts to get comment from the Department of Transport were unsuccessful at the time of going to publication.