In a world where death is inevitable, we remain determined to prevent it occurring unnaturally as best as we can. Yet, 1.3 million people still die, every year, on roads throughout the world. That’s approximately 3200 people per day, of which 47 deaths occur in South Africa. In 2011, there were 10 984 907 registered vehicles in South Africa. Statistics show that 208.8 per 100 000, of these vehicles, will be involved in a car accident.
That’s approximately 3200 people per day, of which 47 deaths occur in South Africa. In 2011, there were 10 984 907 registered vehicles in South Africa. Statistics show that 208.8 per 100 000, of these vehicles, will be involved in a car accident. This festive season, a large portion of those accidents materialised.
It’s to be expected, this time of year, to hear of the many tragic accidents that took place, on our country’s roads, over the festive period.
Despite the fact that the Christmas period is meant to symbolise all things good, joyous and true, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters states: “it is with an even deeper sense of concern that we have become accustomed to the high occurrence of increased crashes and fatalities, this time of year”.
The preliminary figures of the number of road fatalities having occurred between the 1 December 2014 and 7 January 2015 have been released. During this time, 1147 car crashes took place claiming the lives of 1367 South African citizens. A slight decrease from last year’s numbers of 1221 accidents and 1465 fatalities, respectively.
These statistics remain despite government’s efforts to curb road accidents by arranging 845 roadblocks and arresting 3400 people for drunk driving, throughout the recent festive period. All in all, approximately 40 people died, each day, during the Christmas break due to car crashes.
It’s safe to say that there is nothing festive about these numbers.
You may or may not realise that, by living in South Africa, you are more likely, than anyone else in the world to be involved in a car accident. This is according to both local and international findings.
It, therefore, goes without saying that South Africa has one of the highest rates of road fatalities with 31.9 per 100 000 of the population dying due to having been in a car crash. That’s approximately 17 000 deaths per year.
What most people also don’t comprehend is the fact that for every one person that dies in a car accident, there are 20-30 that remain injured from a similar cause.
Unfortunately, death by drunk drivers has increased by approximately 12 000 deaths per year (worldwide) and alcohol abuse is responsible for more than 65% of transport-related deaths/injuries in South Africa. What’s even more sad is the fact that road accidents have been found to be the main cause of death in youth (between the ages of 5 and 29) and mostly affect the poor.
It’s not just our population that gets affected by a number of car crashes on South African roads, but our economy as well. According to CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), the South African government forks out R309 billion, per year, to cover damages caused by road accidents.
It comes as no surprise that transport-related accidents are the third leading cause of unnatural deaths in South Africa and annual road fatalities have been found to increase by at least 2% over the last five years.
Research has proven that the top three most dangerous roads in South Africa are the following:
o R23 located between the N3 (south of Heidelberg) and N11 (Volksrust) – 178 km
o R24 located between the R28 (Krugersdorp) and N14 – 14km
o R28 located between the N12 (Westonaria) and R24 (Krugersdorp) – 30km
According to the RTMC (Road Traffic Management Corporation), the biggest challenge facing South Africa with regards to the amount of road accidents is the occurrence of late- or under-reporting of fatal accidents. This is mainly due to SAPS (South African Police Service) failing to file unnatural deaths, only measuring fatal accidents and forgetting to include statistics from hospitals and mortuaries as well.
We also have a shortage of about 10 000 traffic officers and approximately 50% of South African vehicles are non-roadworthy. This is despite government’s R100 million expenditure on road safety campaigns, per year. Peters has assured parliament that the new road safety advisory council, for 2015, will be made up of experts in order to achieve their goal of halving road fatalities by 2020.
With 85% of car accidents being caused by human error, however, there is, in fact, very little the government can do except continue to punt safety on our roads. Maybe if South Africans knew that, by wearing their seatbelt, 30% of deaths in our country could be prevented, they actually would.
It seems that the harshness of reality has struck in more ways than one. Not only are most of us back to normal routine, having long forgotten our holiday cheer, but many South African families remain affected by this holiday season in ways that are far from festive.
To them, we pay our condolences and ask the rest of South Africa to wake up to the numbers and do what they can to ensure the next Christmas season is infact a joyous one.
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