Festive season road fatalities show a 11% drop compared to last year

Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi, released the preliminary stats for deaths on the road over the festive season last week. Officials were pleased with the 10% drop in fatalities compared to last year. A number of interesting facts can be noted about the preliminary findings.

Brian Joss – Passenger deaths declined from 41% to 35% compared to last year. Maswanganyi believes this decline may be due to greater seatbelt use. The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, agrees that it is essential that every person who gets into a car must wear a seatbelt. “There is a misconception amongst many South African passengers that they do not need to wear a seatbelt as a rear passenger.

Don’t drink and drive: Picture: Energepic/Motorpress

“Not only is it illegal to not wear a seatbelt, wherever you sit in a car, but it also puts all occupants in a car in serious danger. In a collision, back passengers can be propelled into the occupants in front of them with enough force to kill them. Tests conducted by the Institute for Highway Safety in the USA say that drivers with unbelted passengers are twice as likely to die in a crash, even if they are wearing their own seatbelt.”

Herbert says this is just one of the reasons why it is important to wear a seatbelt wherever you sit in a car. A recent event that MasterDrive attended also illustrated that many schoolchildren did not know how to even use a seatbelt. “As drivers we need to make a point to ensure every occupant is wearing their seatbelt before leaving. ‘Is everyone buckled up?’ should become every driver’s mantra before starting a journey,” says Herbert.

Another noteworthy drop in the statistics was a 44% reduction in arrests for drunken driving. While it is difficult to determine if the decline in arrests is echoed with a decline in the total number of drunken drivers, there were still more than 3 000 people arrested for drunken driving.

 “This number is still unacceptably high.

 “With so many options and means to avoid driving under the influence, we need to question why so many people were still arrested for doing so. If you know you are going to drink make an alternate plan before you go to get home safely and if you drink more than you meant to, there are still many ways to get home without endangering yourself or others. We need to get to a point where drunken driving is completely unacceptable within our society.

 “If we continue to reduce this fatality rate by 10% each year, we get ever closer to not having one of the highest fatality rates in the world,”Herbert said.

The reduction in road fatalities over the 2017/2018 festive period is encouraging and points to the success of certain road safety interventions across the country. The Automobile Association (AA) is, however, concerned with the increase in the number of youth who died, and the continued high number of pedestrians who were killed.

The official festive season road fatality statistics were released by transport minister last week From 1 December 2017 to 15 January 2018, 1676 people died on South Africa’s roads. This is an 11 percent decrease in road fatalities over the same period last year where 1875 people died. The festive season reporting period last year was from 1 December 2016 to 9 January 2017. In this period 1714 people died. In the comparable period this year, 1527 people lost their lives.

 “These numbers are promising and, hopefully, signal the start of a new trend where our country’s road fatality statistics show decreases instead of increases. Much, much more needs to be done to ensure our road deaths are reduced even further, and this year’s improved figures indicate some progress to achieving that,” says the AA.

Despite these better statistics, the AA says it is concerned about the increase in pedestrian deaths, and the number of deaths of people aged between 25 and 34, that more needs to be done to educate the youth about pedestrian safety. We will continue our Walk Safe campaign in primary schools, as well as our Visibility Campaign to promote better pedestrian visibility, as part of our contribution to dealing more effectively with these problems,” the AA notes.

Apart from the national figure, an important statistic is the 43% decline in fatalities on 13 of the country’s most hazardous routes. This, the AA believes, is partly due to the increase in visible policing on these routes, and is a policy which must be implemented in other areas.

“It is therefore critical that the introduction of the 24/7 shift system for traffic law enforcers is done sooner rather than later. With more traffic officials on our roads, at all times of the day or night, we believe these reduced numbers will be sustained, and even improved on next year,” says the Association.

In addition to the reduced number of fatalities, the AA notes the reduction in the number of people stopped for drunk driving, not wearing seatbelts, or for reckless and negligent driving.

“This again points to a change of attitude in behaviour among motorists which we view as the most important element of road safety. Bad driving behaviour needs to become more socially unacceptable, and the evidence presented by the Minister this morning indicates this is also beginning to happen.

“We welcome these figures, and hope we see similar reduced statistics reflected over the upcoming Easter period. More importantly, though, we hope to see continued reductions year on year, and continued improved driving behaviour among all road users,” the AA concludes.

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