Road death toll in 2016 raises red flag for motorists

The annual road fatality statistics for 2016, published recently by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), are cause for great concern, and point to an urgent need for combined interventions from everyone involved in road safety in South Africa to curb the rising numbers.

Brian Joss – This is according to the Automobile Association (AA) which was commenting on data contained in the RTMC’s Road Traffic Report Calendar for the period 1 January to 31 December 2016.

According to the figures, 14071 people died on South African roads last year, a nine percent increase on the 2015 figure of 12944. More than 1120 more people died on the roads in 2016 than in 2015. This is the highest annual road death toll since 2007 when 14920 people died on South African roads. In 2006, 15419 people died on the country’s roads. 

Graph 1 – Fatalities 2007 – 2016

Human factors are indicated as the biggest contributor to road crashes and fatalities, accounting for 77.5 percent of contributing factors. Vehicle factors (6%), and road and environmental factors (16.5%), make up the balance of contributing factors.  

Graph 2 – Road User Group fatalities % breakdown 2016

Among the human factors that lead to crashes, and deaths, are jaywalking pedestrians (38.8%), hit and run crashes (18.5%), high speed (14.1%), overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic (6.9%), drunk driving or driving while on drugs (3.6%), and driver fatigue (2.2%).

Graph 3 – South African Road fatalities numbers 2016

“These figures are alarming, and should worry every motorist in the country. These numbers seem to indicate that awareness campaigns and education initiatives are not working well enough, driver attitudes are getting worse, and that law enforcement is not making the impact it should. We are deeply concerned about these fatalities, more so because they show an increase, and call for urgent action from all role-players involved in road safety to reverse this,” the AA said. 

Graph 4 – Provincial Road Fatalities % contribution 2016

The statistics show Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have the highest percentage of road deaths in the country, each contributing just under 20% to the national total. In Gauteng 2700 people died on the roads, while 2715 died in KwaZulu-Natal. The Northern Cape (409 deaths), the Free State (992 deaths), and North West (1084 deaths) had the lowest death rates contributing 2.9%, 7%, and 7.7% the national total respectively. 

Graph 5 – Provincial Road Fatalities numbers 2016

Pedestrians remain the most vulnerable of all road users; 5410 of the 14071 deaths were pedestrians, or 38% of the total number. 

The Association noted that while the government plays a pivotal role in addressing the carnage on the country’s roads, motorists and pedestrians seem not to be heeding the call to drive and walk safer, and should see these numbers as a stark warning.

“Too often motorists are driving recklessly or not obeying the rules of the road. Similarly, pedestrians are not protecting themselves by being more visible to cars, or are taking chances crossing over roads where they shouldn’t. More effort is needed by both groups of road users, and more effort is needed by organisations involved in road safety to make safety a priority,” the AA said.

The AA said a wider approach to road safety education is needed in schools, teaching children from a young age to be better road users. In addition, law enforcement initiatives should be supported in the courts with traffic offenders being given the harshest possible penalties. “Unfortunately there is a perception among road users that traffic offences aren’t serious and aren’t effectively dealt with in court. Through a more consistent handling of traffic offences in court, this perception will change, and hopefully, errant drivers will realise they are not above the law,” the Association noted. It said recent moves by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department to employ more police officers, thus putting more officials on the road, were welcome and needed to be expanded across the country.

In addition, the AA said, organisations and agencies involved in road safety initiatives, be they private or public, need to foster a closer working relationship to make the messaging about road safety more uniform.

“There is ample evidence to suggest a more coherent approach to road safety is needed in South Africa, and we call for immediate and urgent intervention from everyone involved to make this happen. Taking drivers with illegal licenses off the road, and curbing the number of un-roadworthy vehicles in South Africa is a good first step,” the AA concluded.

About The Automobile Association of South Africa

The Automobile Association (AA) has been the trusted champion of the South African motorist and traveller for over 85 years. Along with our AA Accredited Sales Agent stores located countrywide, the AA offers access to over 50 benefits on 1 card as well as other travel and mobility services that extend far beyond 24-hour roadside assistance – from technical and legal advice, to emergency rescue services, roadside security and a mobile app suite. The AA offers specialised apprenticeships to help motor industry players build in-house skill, and short skill courses for individuals.

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