South African roads continue to be deadly this festive season following the death of award-winning playwright Mbongeni Ngema, who died on Wednesday in what has been reported to be a head-on collision in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape.
According to reports, the province also reported the death of six more people who lost their lives on the R61 in Engcobo after a double cab bakkie driver lost control on Christmas day.
This came after transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga revealed that more than 720 people had died in road accidents since the start of the 2023 festive season following the recent announcement of preliminary festive road season statistics.
The minister said the latest figures represented a decrease of 32 deaths from the same period last year, adding that the early release of these statistics provided the department with insights into problem areas and how to fix them as the country approached the peak of the festive season period.
It was reported that Gauteng accounted for the most car accident deaths with more than 187 reported fatalities, followed by KZN with 135, Limpopo with 88, Mpumalanga with 81, Western Cape with 76, Eastern Cape with 59, Free State with 49, North West with 37, and Northern Cape with 17.
The Johannesburg Metro Police Department indicated that the road fatalities would continue to rise as travellers in and out of the province continued their holiday season.
Western Cape Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie said 45% of the victims had been pedestrians, adding that in the previous year the province had 77 deaths during the same period.
“Thirty-four (45%) of the people who died were pedestrians, highlighting how it is often the most vulnerable road users who are at risk. The remaining fatalities were 26 passengers (34%), 14 drivers (18%), and two motorcyclists (3%),” MacKenzie said.
Chikunga on Friday released the midterm 2023/2024 festive season statistics, saying most crashes occurred between 7pm and 2am.
The minister cited overloading, drunk driving and lack of care as the biggest contributors to fatalities on the country’s roads.
“In total, 719 fatalities have been recorded in the first three weeks of the 2023/2024 festive season compared with 751 in the same period last year,” said Chikunga.
According to the ministry of transport, the distribution of fatal road crashes by province over the past five years indicates that the top five provinces continue to contribute significantly to the fatalities with Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, and Western Cape collectively accounted for over 70% of the fatalities in the previous year.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) reports that more than 1738 vehicles have been discontinued and 3340 impounded since the start of the festive season on December 1.
On Wednesday, RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane said more than 4160 motorists had been arrested with the majority of these having been arrested for drunken driving while others were detained for producing false documents and driving public transport vehicles contrary to operating permits.
“The RTMC urges motorists to reduce speed, keep a safe following distance, have lights on and avoid crossing flooded bridges. Motorists must also ensure that vehicles are in a roadworthy state. Lights, wipers, windscreens , brakes and tyres must be checked before the start of the journey,” Zwane said.
Zwane urged motorists and other road users to be cautious and obey road regulations and avoid travelling at night especially in wet weather conditions which are currently prevalent in most parts of the country.
“Officers will not hesitate to discontinue or impound vehicles that are not roadworthy. More than 1738 vehicles have been discontinued and 3340 impounded since the start of the festive season on December 1,“ he said.