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Road safety a 'national crisis', AA tells new transport minister Fikile Mbalula

19 June 2019 - 14:57 By ERNEST MABUZA
The Automobile Association (AA) released to the public on Wednesday an open letter it wrote last week to transport minister Fikile Mbalula.
The Automobile Association (AA) released to the public on Wednesday an open letter it wrote last week to transport minister Fikile Mbalula.
Image: Masi Losi/Sunday Times

The country's poor road safety record, ineffective law enforcement and the need to introduce safer cars are some of the critical challenges that new transport minister Fikile Mbalula should focus on.

These are the areas that the Automobile Association (AA) has identified in an open letter  to Mbalula last week, and which it released to the public on Wednesday.

The AA said road safety remains one of the biggest problems facing the country's transport system.

The AA said in the past 10 years about 135,000 people had died on the country's roads.

"This is a national crisis that requires massive attention, or another 135,000 people will certainly die in the next decade. And it requires a complete rethink on the way road safety is approached in SA."

The AA said 2020 was the end of the UN's Decade of Action for Road Safety, the campaign which sought to reduce by half the number of road deaths in countries.

The association said the figures for SA showed the country had failed to achieve those goals.

"This, minister, is a real challenge for you and your department, one which needs immediate attention."

The association said the Road Traffic Management Corporation had estimated that the cost of crashes in SA can be placed at about R163bn a year.

"It's a staggering amount of money which could be better used in schools, universities, healthcare facilities, or for job creation. Yet, as a country, road safety seems to be too much of an afterthought than a priority."

The association also remarked that law enforcement on SA roads remained splintered, uncoordinated and largely ineffective.

"Proper, effective licencing of prospective drivers, a more comprehensive approach to rooting out corruption and bribery at vehicle testing centres, and better application of vehicle roadworthiness is a start."

However, the AA said the challenge was to use law enforcement around the country to police moving violations, such as speeding, more effectively.

The AA also said results of entry-level cars that had been crash-tested by the AA in the past three years showed the country was still behind most of the world in providing safer vehicles at an affordable price to the motoring public.

The AA proposed a more intensive approach by manufacturers in SA to making safer cars available locally.