There is no doubt that the lifting of lockdown restrictions was absolutely necessary to restart an economy teetering on the verge of complete collapse.
But each lowering of restrictions had the unintended, but perhaps not unexpected, consequence of an increase in road accidents. This has taken on horrific proportions in KwaZulu-Natal in recent weeks.
Last month, 12 people, including a heavily pregnant woman, were killed when a truck failed to stop at an intersection and crashed into a taxi on the R33 road in the Midlands. About two weeks ago 13 members of the same family were killed when their taxi veered off the road at Kilimon.
And just days after the Kilimon victims were laid to rest, 16 more were killed on Thursday in a collision between a truck and taxi on the R34 road in the Mthonjaneni area.
Also on Thursday, four people died in a head-on collision between two trucks on the N1 in the Karoo. As Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said of the Mthonjaneni accident, one life lost is one life too many, “but death on this scale is an absolute tragedy”.
But these are avoidable tragedies, if drivers would only be considerate on the road; considerate in observing speed limits and other road regulations, in their behaviour towards one another on the road and in ensuring their vehicles are roadworthy.
It is in this context that we welcome plans to introduce strict new rules around alcohol and driving through the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, presented to Parliament last week, which proposes an effective prohibition of any drinking and driving.
Many South Africans have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, whose effects are far too often manifested in death and destruction on the roads.
Recent data from the SA Medical Research Council and Unisa shows that South Africa has one of the highest road traffic death tolls internationally – with alcohol use a high contributor. Completely eliminating alcohol from the equation should help to reduce both the accident and road death rates.
However, this initiative should be coupled with a drive to get unroadworthy vehicles, another major cause of accidents, off the road, while the authorities should also consider limiting the speed of taxis to 100km/h.
Unfortunately the regulations will come too late for the nearly 50 victims of the four recent crashes.