Thousands of holidaymakers have been making their way home. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Johannesburg - The surge in road deaths over the festive period, caused primarily by excessive speeding and drunk driving, has spawned an intense road operation as holidaymakers return home.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) will this week continue its major operations to prevent more road carnage following a 16% spike in deaths announced by Transport Minister Blade Nzimande for the December holiday period compared with figures for the previous year.

Provisional figures announced by the minister last month showed that 767 people had died on the roads since the start of the holidays - a 16% rise - with speeding and drunk driving being flagged as the major causes.

Police Minister Bheki Cele also identified what he said was the harmful abuse of alcohol, which led to heinous crimes being committed.

“The figures we get on the deaths on the road are also associated with alcohol. The figures we get on (drowning) are also associated (with alcohol). The figures we get on the abuse of women and children are also associated with alcohol. It is a source of evil and a source of crime,” Cele emphasised.

He was speaking to the media in Cape Town last week following the seizure and destruction of about 10000 litres of alcohol.

RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane said on Sunday that the agency was expecting heavy traffic at various toll gates with schools reopening on Wednesday and with many companies starting their 2019 operations.

“There is a peak of (roughly) 1700 cars an hour passing at almost all our toll gates.

"RTMC will continue to have major operations around the country until the traffic subsides,” Zwane said.

He said he could not determine when the RTMC expected the volume of traffic to subside.

Gauteng police also said that it had gone after illegal liquor outlets - more than 30 of them.

However, there was still a major concern that the abuse of alcohol and indulgence in drugs had contributed to many of the sexual offences that were committed since the beginning of this year.

Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said 25 people had been arrested since the start of this year for sexual offences across the province.

Meanwhile, Nzimande and the RTMC announced yesterday that they had partnered with spirits company Diageo South Africa in an initiative called Drive Dry.

“The collaboration between private and public sector organisations is key to improving the safety and well-being of our road users across the country," Zwane said.

“We need to work even harder to create road safety awareness across the country throughout the year.

“We believe that in the end we can win this battle,” Zwane added.

@khayakoko88

The Star