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Driver behaviour in spotlight as festive season road deaths climb

18 January 2022 - 17:08 By TimesLIVE
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says the biggest cause of fatal crashes are single vehicles overturning and head-on collisions. File photo.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says the biggest cause of fatal crashes are single vehicles overturning and head-on collisions. File photo.
Image: Twitter/Department of transport

Road accident fatalities increased by 14% during the 42-day festive season Arrive Alive campaign compared to the previous one, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday.

A total of 1,685 people died.

“What is alarming is that we have had more fatalities per crash this year compared to the previous periods,” he said. There were 34 major crashes, accounting for 223 fatalities. This is in contrast with the 13 major crashes responsible for 72 fatalities in the previous period.

Among the “heart-wrenching crashes” cited by Mbalula was a head-on collision that claimed 17 lives and injured eight on the N1 near Mookgophong, Limpopo, on January 12. The bus driver died along with the passengers when the bus caught fire and they were trapped inside immediately after impact.

The main causes of the road deaths during the period, Mbalula said, were jaywalking, speeding, wet or slippery roads,  overtaking across barrier lines and poor visibility.

The back-to-back extended long weekends that characterised the 2021 festive period posed a big challenge to road safety and the rainy weather proved to be a complicating factor.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula

“The back-to-back extended long weekends that characterised the 2021 festive period posed a big challenge to road safety and the rainy weather proved to be a complicating factor. According to the SA Weather Service, heavy rains measuring between 100mm and 200mm fell in many provinces during December. In some provinces, torrential rainfalls measuring between 200mm and 500mm were experienced resulting in damage to infrastructure including roads and bridges.

“While we note this objective reality, we must equally accept that in a significant number of instances the competence of our drivers leaves much to be desired.”

Mbalula said an overwhelming majority of fatal crashes were because of a single vehicle overturning and head-on collisions, adding improving driver competence was an issue his department would consider for future road safety campaigns.

Road fatalities increased in seven provinces.

The Northern Cape recorded the highest increase of 97%, with fatalities increasing from 33 in the previous period to 65. The Western Cape showed a 55.6% increase in fatalities, from 133 to 207. 

North West recorded a 25.3% increase, from 95 fatalities in the previous period to 119. Mpumalanga recorded an increase of 24.3% — from 152 to 189. Limpopo recorded a 16.5% increase from 194 to 226 fatalities.

Gauteng recorded a 15.5% increase  — from 238 to 275  — while the Free State recorded an increase of 7.2%, moving from 111 to 119 fatalities.

The Eastern Cape recorded the largest decline in fatalities with a reduction of 7.9% or 210 fatalities compared to the same period last year, when it had 228 fatalities. KwaZulu-Natal recorded a significant 6.5% decline. The province recorded 275 fatalities compared with 294 in the same period last year. 

Passenger fatalities constituted 38% in the current period compared to the previous 32%.

Driver fatalities increased from 27% in the previous period to 28% in this period, while cyclist fatalities increased from 1% to 3%.

Mbalula said data showed many vehicles involved in fatal crashes had many occupants and most crashes occurred between 5pm and 7pm, particularly on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Light motor cars accounted for 49% of the crashes followed by light delivery vehicles at 17%. Minibus vehicles accounted for 8% and trucks 6%.

Pedestrian fatalities significantly decreased from 41% previously to 31% in the current reporting period.

During the festive season campaign, law-enforcement officers conducted 651 roadblocks throughout the country.

They issued 264,690 fines for various traffic offences. Of these, 21,431 were for drivers who failed to wear seat belts while 22,766 were for people driving without licences.

“It is our intention to ensure that the law bites and driving on our roads without a driving licence carries a heavy penalty. Otherwise, the mooted points demerit system will make no difference to driver behaviour,” said Mbalula.

A total of 4,251 unroadworthy vehicles were discontinued while 4,073 vehicles were impounded.

To clamp down on drunken driving, speeding and other moving violations, officers arrested 6,169 motorists, 1,586 for drunken driving. A driver with the highest alcohol level of 2.43mg was arrested in Johannesburg on December 22.

A total of 605 drivers were arrested for driving at excessive speeds of between 190km/h to well above 220km/h. One speedster was arrested in Limpopo for travelling at 225km/h. 

“Driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to wear a seat belt, excessive speeding, disregarding road conditions and signs reflect negative conduct that contributes to fatalities on our roads. This is the reason human factors contributed 79% to the occurrence of fatal crashes while road factors contributed 11% and vehicle factors 10%," said Mbalula. 

“Necessary actions will be taken to turn the situation around. Building on the previous and recent experiences, the department will continue to improve its enforcement policies and strategies, and upscale public safety campaigns.”

In addressing driver competence and putting in place measures to eliminate fraud, Mbalula said processes to digitise driving licence renewal procedures are in the pipeline and will result in a paperless process. This will include online eye-testing, where the result will be automatically uploaded.

Long-term interventions include integration of driving licence simulators into the testing procedures. “This will entail testing the motorist’s level of knowledge of the motor vehicle and rules of the road before actually getting into the vehicle. The recording of the driving licence testing and digitalising test results will be part of this innovation.”

Mbalula said his department’s goal was to achieve a 25% reduction in road deaths.



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