By Khathu Ramukumba, CEO of the National Youth Development Agency
On 10 January 2017, Minister of Transport Ms Dipuo Peters released the preliminary 2016/17 festive season road safety statistics. The statistics project South Africa’s roads as a death trap despite that fact that the country has very good infrastructure when compared to others within the continent, yet year on year road fatalities continue to rise.
The statistics indicate that a total of 1 714 fatalities were recorded, which represents a 5% increase from the previous year. Amongst the total figure driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to wear a seatbelt, using cellular phones while driving, excessive speeding, disregarding road conditions and signs are prevalent causes. Mostly these acts are man-made and call for responsibility from all of us. The majority of drivers understand what is expected of them behind the wheel and choose to ignore their responsibility. Sad to say such behavior has led to lives short-lived and brought grief to many families.
With the department having run campaigns from the beginning of the year until the last days of the festive seasons, we are left to wonder why the results have not turned out differently. A number of stakeholders have significantly threw in their support in quest to reduce the number of road carnage and fatalities. But the results have not been positive. Maybe it time that we take the bull by its horn and question the roles we play and individuals. Government with handful of stakeholders cannot achieve road safety alone. People must ask themselves what has been their role in the Arrive Alive campaigns or any other road safety awareness initiative.
Out of the areas of specific intervention proposed by the Department of Transport, we welcome the strengthening of co-ordination and existing partnerships within government and outside government to maximize the impact of the public education and awareness programmes. The NYDA has signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Road Accident Fund (RAF) on a strategic partnership that will see k to achieve the following:
- Embark on joint national campaigns for the purpose of promoting road safety with an intention of changing youth road using behavior.
- Collaborate towards imparting requisite defensive driving and basic first aid support to passengers and drivers in cases of emergency or a crash.
- Partner on initiatives that will benefit the young people of South Africa through the RAF.
Out of this Cooperation Agreement, the following initiatives and projects will be rolled out this year (2017):
- Implementation of a National Youth Service project that will see youth volunteers, who will be paid stipends, being trained to fix potholes, erect speed humps in communities as well as doing road markings. This we foresee as a contributor towards reducing road incidents.
- Roll out the Learner Driver Programme funded by RAF which will see young people being assisted to be legal drivers by empowering them with driving skills, knowledge on the legalities of the road as well as obtaining their driver licenses. The recruitment for this initiative has already taken place in the later part of 2016.
- Collaboration in Social Dialogues held in communities that will teach the youth about their responsibility on the road, road safety and the dangers of things such as drunk driving, reckless driving and texting while driving. A total of seven (7) dialogues took place already from August 2016 in six (6) provinces. This year will see a continuation of this initiative and partnering with local municipalities. As seen in the statistics released, 40% of the fatalities were passengers and 34% were pedestrians. We that this initiative will have an impact on the young people being more responsible on the road as well as teach their own families and communities to become safe road users.
As the NYDA, we are pleased to note that some of the initiatives that we have started implementing are in line with what Minister Peters has recommended in her statement. Over and above the changes in policies and regulations as well as other measures she has recommended, education remains key.
The NYDA also has a partnership with South African Breweries (SAB) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the You Decide Campaign TV series, which is a comprehensive campaign aimed at tackling the scourge of underage drinking in our country. Drinking and driving or walking on the road is one of the major contributors to road fatalities, we have joined hands to tackle head on one of the biggest challenges that confront our youth and the future of this country, which is alcohol abuse. We believe that young people should be addicted to education and not alcohol, it should be the book before the bottle for any learner. This initiative has been running since 2014 and visits various schools around the country.
It still remains the responsibility of all South African to adhere to road safety measures as well as the rules and regulations. We need everyone alive in order for us to make moving South Africa forward a reality for all.