Cape Town - The 17% increase in road deaths since the start of December 2016 is worrying and dismaying, and sends an early signal that the country’s festive road fatality numbers could be the worst in several years, according to the Automobile Association (AA).
Earlier the Department of Transport (DoT) announced that 845 people have died on the country’s roads between December 1 - 19, a 17% increase on the same period last year.
'Problem getting worse'
“A breakdown of the figures is showing a trend: lack of inter-personal respect among motorists. Once again driver attitude is the cause of many of the fatal crashes; and it is a problem that appears to be getting worse, rather than better,” the AA lamented.
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According to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, who released the mid-month festive season assessment earlier on Tuesday (Dec 20), human factors contributed 82% to fatal crashes while road and environmental factors (10%) and vehicle factors (8%) contributed the rest.
“…we take exception and condemn in the strongest possible terms those who remain irresponsible and reckless on our roads. They continue to use our roads with disdain and with little regard to other law abiding road users. This uncaring attitude by these irresponsible and reckless road users led to the loss of innocent lives on our roads,” Minister Peters said.
Drastic measures needed
She said there is a tendency by road users to ignore the call for road safety.
What is encouraging, the AA noted, was the Minister’s acknowledgement that drastic measures are needed to reign in the startling numbers. She said she would engage with the provinces to consider extending overtime payment for law enforcement officers, as well as intensifying law enforcement visibility.
“These are steps in the right direction and the Minister should be supported by every South African in this endeavour. However, while we are supportive of these, and other steps, the real proof of their success will be at the end of the festive period when the final numbers are announced. We are hopeful that these will make a difference, but we are concerned that they will be too late,” the AA said.
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During her announcement, the Minister also mentioned pedestrians who account for 35% of the total number of fatalities. The AA said pedestrians needed to make themselves more visible, especially in poorly lit areas, to ensure their safety. It also warned motorists to be vigilant of inebriated pedestrians who posed a risk to themselves and drivers who don’t see them quickly enough to avoid them.
Apart from the fatalities, the AA noted that 2509 people were arrested for drunk driving in Gauteng alone during the period, another shocking statistic given the clear messages regarding alcohol use and driving prior to the festive season starting.
“It remains a cause of great anxiety and frustration for us, and many other organisations, including the government, that the dangers of drunk driving go unnoticed. Year after year the message is communicated, many times graphically, that driving and alcohol don’t mix. Yet, year after year, these messages are lost, yet another indication of the poor driver attitude inherent on our roads,” the AA concluded.
Some safety driving tips for the holidays:
1. Plan your route. Check the conditions of the road and the weather on your planned route and make sure that it is still safe to use. Planning ahead will also help you plan accommodation for overnight stay if your need it.
2. Sleep the night before leaving. Having a good night’s rest before you hit the road will put you in the right frame of mind to tackle the long journey. Driving while you are tired or weary is dangerous not only for you and your family, but other road users.
3. Stop and rest every two hours or every 200km, and rest for at least 15 minutes. This will allow you to refresh and refocus for the rest of the journey.
4. If possible, share the driving workload. If there is another licensed driver in the car, let them drive for some of the journey. This will take your mind off the road and give you some time to mentally recharge.
5. Don’t rush. Leave enough time to get to your destination in good time. Speeding is against the law and dangerous. Arrive at your destination in one piece, rather than not at all.
6. Dress comfortably for the car. Wear clothes that allow for freedom of movement, and which are comfortable. Apply sunblock if necessary because your arms and legs may be exposed to the sun, even if you aren’t aware of it.
7. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is extremely important, especially if it is hot.
8. Open your windows. Even if your car is equipped with an air conditioner, open the windows every now and again to let fresh air in.
9. Obey the rules of the road – they are meant for everyone and are there for a reason.
10. Wear your seatbelt and ensure all passengers – including children – are also properly buckled up.
11. Don’t be distracted. Talking or texting on a cellphone, or constantly turning around to interact with passengers on the back seat are all extreme dangerous as they are taking your focus away from the road. Pay attention to your own, and other drivers’ behaviour.
12. Don’t drink and drive. Alcohol and driving do not mix, it’s as simple as that.
13. Be courteous to other drivers and respect their right to also use the road.
14. Check your tyres. Bald or worn tyres can be deadly. Check your tyres for wear and for correct inflation. Don’t forget to also check the spare.