Drop in festive season road fatalities no cause for relaxation

Drop in festive season road fatalities no cause for relaxation. Picture: File

Drop in festive season road fatalities no cause for relaxation. Picture: File

Published Jan 24, 2024


Even though Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has described the decrease in the number of road fatalities during the 2023/2024 festive season as a story of progress achieved against extraordinary odds, independent bodies said the number of deaths remained too high to celebrate just yet.

In fact, groups such as the AA reported that although the number of fatalities were reported to be on a decline, the high number of deaths on the country’s roads still required urgent intervention.

Chikunga released the 2023/2024 festive season road statistics at the Grasmere toll plaza yesterday, where she revealed that 1 427 people died on the roads in the 2023/2024 festive season between December 1 and January 11, which was 25 fewer than the previous year.

The statistics recorded from December 1 to January 11 indicated a 1.7% decline from the previous year’s records.

The transport minister said there were 1 184 fatal crashes, which signalled a 2.3% decline from the 1 212 crashes witnessed during the 2022/2023 festive season.

Men between the ages of 25 to 44 were reportedly the biggest contributors to the significant number of road fatalities in 2023/2024, 40.9% being pedestrians.

Most crashes were said to have occurred from December 1 to 5, between 7pm and 10pm, with the peak time between 8pm to 9pm.

Chikunga said most of the road fatalities and/or accidents took place during weekends, especially on Sundays.

Law enforcement agencies arrested 7 820 motorists for, among other offences, driving under the influence of alcohol, inconsiderate and reckless driving, producing false documentation, and excessive speeding.

The biggest speedster was apprehended on the N1 Settle Bridge in Limpopo clocking in 225km/h in a 120km/h zone.

In Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, a driver with a blood alcohol level of 2.48 mg was also arrested: the legal limit stands at 0.24 mg per 1 000 ml of breath.

Another big contributor to the road accidents, Chikunga said, were environmental factors such as heavy rain and storms, which she said contributed to 80% of crashes.

While provinces such as the Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo and North West showed significant decreases, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Mpumalanga and the Western Cape had increased fatalities.

Chikunga reported increases of 7.6% in Gauteng, 4.2% in KZN, 9.7% in Mpumalanga and more worryingly 22.6% in the Western Cape.

“It is worth noting that the Eastern Cape is the only province that managed to surpass the target set for it to reduce fatalities by at least 18.6%. In light of this, we will have to have serious engagements with authorities in the provinces and possibly redefine the targets informed by objective dynamics and available resources on the ground in the provinces.”

She added that they would in addition initiate closer engagements with provinces that showed increased fatalities to better understand what needs to be done to improve performance.

The AA said it remained concerned that traffic law enforcement was focused on seasonal campaigns, especially around Easter and the end-of-year holiday period, instead of being equally visible throughout the year.

The association stressed that while the government had taken note that road crashes cost the economy close to R2 billion annually, not enough was being done to improve the situation.

“The number of fatalities remains alarmingly high year-on-year and shows no signs of decreasing meaningfully. While we applaud the dedication of traffic law enforcers around the country, particularly during peak travel times, we believe an increase in funding and resourcing of traffic law enforcement is essential to ensure a significant drop in the number of crashes and fatalities,” added the association.

The Star