Chikunga reflects on state of road safety

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

South Africa has seen an escalation in the number of road traffic casualties since 1994 due to the rise in the vehicle population, which has presented a plethora of road safety related challenges.

Addressing the launch of the United Nations Global Campaign for Road Safety, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga attributed the increase of the vehicle population to access to bank loans and the ability to purchase vehicles.

“Such an increase has presented a plethora of road safety related challenges, from human factors, environmental factors, engineering and technical factors, law enforcement, as well as education and awareness factors.

“From 1994 - 1995, the vehicle population increased by one million, from 5.5 to 6.5 million. Calculating from a period between 1994 and 2022, we moved from 5.5 million to an almost 13 million (12 964 430) vehicle population,” the Minister said on Wednesday in Johannesburg. 

According to statistics, 87% of road fatalities in the country can be attributed to road user behaviour.

“Research has shown that our employed youth are the ones who carry the heaviest burden of road crashes, injuries, and fatalities in our country. Statistics also show that pedestrian fatalities are highest segment of victims in the country and young economically active people between the ages of 25 and 39 constitute the majority of those who die on the roads,” Chikunga said.

In an effort to address numbers of road traffic casualties, government has developed a multifaceted approach to regulate and ultimately reduce the fatalities on the roads.

“We introduced legislative amendments to enhance preventive measures, for instance we introduced blood alcohol content limits; speed limits especially in urban areas and around schools. We also established mandatory the seat belt regulations and child restraints use.

“We examined a range of sentencing options for traffic violations, including licence suspensions under the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) demerit points system, and – for specific grades of offences – community service sentences and/or mandatory licence re-testing. We put in place, advance technical norms and standards for road infrastructure and vehicles,” the Minister said.

In addition, government approved the 2016 - 2030 National Road Safety Strategy, with intermediate and long-term actions to ensure vehicle fitness, driver safety, pedestrian safety, community participation in issues of road safety.

The National Department of Transport has convened a series of national road safety policy consultative workshops and a Road Safety Summits to foster open and critical dialogue between government, industry, civil society and academia.

Recently, South Africa conducted a detailed analysis of road crash patterns in the county over the past five years (2018 - 2022).

“The analysis has shown that although we are making steady progress in reducing fatalities, we need to fast-track progress by intelligently deploying our law enforcement, conducting safety education communication campaigns at identified hotspots and at times when crashes are likely to happen,” the Minister said. –