A call to reduce road deaths

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Johannesburg - With the festive season just around the corner, government will be stepping up efforts to curb road crashes during this busy period on the roads.

Scores of people, including victims of road accidents, braved the baking sun on Sunday and gathered at the Chris Hani Sports Complex in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, to witness the launch of this year's Arrive Alive Safety Festive Season.

The campaign forms part of the Department of Transport's Road Safety Strategy and aims at sensitizing people about the consequences of not abiding to acceptable conduct on the road including drunk driving and speeding.

Government is spending about R56 billion each year in road crash-related costs.

According to the Road Accident Fund chief executive officer, Jacob Modise, the scheme paid out more than 11 billion last year to victims of road accidents.

More than R2 billion of the amount was paid to lawyers while R800 million covered hospital bills. Road accident are further said to be consuming 3 percent of the global gross domestic product.

Speaking during the event, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele called for road users to join hands and reverse the trend of road deaths in South Africa.

"To appreciate this challenge (road accidents), we must move beyond statistics. We must remember that road deaths deprive children of parents, road deaths deprive parents of their children who die before their time," Ndebele said.

The economy was also deprived of healthy, skilled individuals simply because of an accident that could have been avoided. "It takes only one taxi accident to deprive a country of a student, a soccer player, a teacher and children who are yet to fulfill their dreams," Ndebele said.

He said the chilling statics associated with road deaths were prove that the situation had long reached crisis levels. Almost 90 percent of road crashes are caused by human error.

It has been reported that Africa has the most dangerous roads in the world and unless something drastic is done about road crashes, by 2020 more people will die on our roads than those killed by HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria combined.

Ndebele warned that law enforcement agencies will be out in full force during the festive to ensure that the number of people who fall victim of road crashes is reduced.

But for one accident victim, Kabelo Rantho, the pain was just unbearable. Rantho recalled how his life was changed for ever when a taxi he was traveling in overturned six years ago leaving him wheelchair-bound.

"I was just 20 years and looking forward to life when everything just changed in front of my eyes," said Rantho.

For years he had been angry towards, the driver of the taxi, whom he claimed was speeding, but says he has since moved on. "I am just glad I'm alive because I lost a friend from the accident," he said.

Taxi body Santaco has also pledged to promote road safety and responsible driving among its members.