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Road fatalities rise again

The number of road fatalities during the 2021/2022 festive period were released: 1 685 people died on the country’s roads between 1 December 2021 and 11 January 2022. This is a 14% increase compared to the same period the previous year.

According to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbabula, the main causes of road fatalities include jaywalking, speeding, slippery road surfaces, overtaking across barrier lines and poor visibility. The stats reveal that human factors account for 79% of fatal crashes while road factors contributed 11% and vehicle factors 10%. The Minister is of the opinion that AARTO, once fully implemented, will reduce high stats in the future

The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert expands on this: “The stats do show that drivers themselves need to make major changes if South Africa hopes to see any real change. Many people were arrested for offences such as drunken driving and speeding.

“One driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was a 2.43mg. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful whether this person would have decided against getting behind the wheel with an alcohol limit this high whether there was a point system or not.”

 Real change lies in succeeding in showing drivers the error in their actions before those actions are committed. “The consequences for those driving at high speeds or under the influence of alcohol are just as dire now with the law as it stands. Consequently, many South Africans may be asking themselves what is needed to bring this message home.

“Following yet another season of high road fatalities, this question seems difficult to answer. Currently, traffic laws in South Africa do meet international standards but the enforcement and penalties could be improved. Education and awareness campaigns are extensive but regard to road safety and the laws remains low.”

The Minister of Transport is not completely wrong in the belief that a point system has the potential for real change. “When South African drivers are compared to those internationally, there is definitely a difference in attitude towards breaking road regulations. This could be because internationally, the consequences of dangerous and reckless driving are much greater with potential loss of licenses, jail terms and massive fines. 

“It illustrates that a point system that is focused on stopping bad driving behaviour and has less focus on potential financial gain could be part of the answer to the high fatality rates. MasterDrive previously commented on the high court ruling and agrees that if AARTO is implemented while giving cognisance to all stakeholder input, it would make a difference.”

Yet, this relies on the majority of South African drivers appreciating and accepting the value of the system and getting their buy-in. “Right now, following inconsistencies, a high court ruling against it and the overturning of this in the ConCourt, major damage is being done to the faith South Africans place in the system.

“Ultimately, real change to the road fatalities is going to take commitment from drivers, government, businesses and society at large. Irrespective of these disheartening statistics and the current uncertainty in legislation, one should not let this deter their efforts to contribute to safer roads,” says Herbert.