ROAD DEATHS APPALLING: National transport minister Dupio Peters needs to take action to curb SA's horror road death toll, writes DA shadow minister of transport, Manny de Freitas. Image: AFP/ Carl De Souza
Dear minister Peters,
South Africa is rated the worst, out of 36 other countries, when it comes to the number of road fatalities. South Africa's road fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants was 27.6 deaths in 2011 according to The International Transport Forum's (ITF) Road Safety Annual Report and international report for 2013.
This is a mortality rate of 28 per 100 000 citizens dying as a result of road fatalities. In 2014, South Africa was ranked 177th out of 182 countries studied for road fatalities. These fatalities result in a huge socio-economic cost, estimated at R306-billion per annum.
The 2015 Easter weekend road death toll of 287 from 208 crashes represents a 48% increase compared to the 2014 Easter death toll of 193 from 148 crashes. The chilling part is that this figure is actually a preliminary one as it does not include subsequent deaths in hospitals and mortuaries as a result of road crashes.
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Time and time again we hear the same politically correct words being uttered by yourself; about how we need to reduce the death toll and improve on the road safety statistics. However, your words don’t get put into action.
Unless you introduce proper and effective interventions, the carnage on our roads will continue to go up, as I had predicted it would last year.
'INSANE' ROAD-SAFETY STRATEGY
Unbelievably, you and your department continue to do the same thing year after year and expect a different (improved) result! Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Indeed, your road safety “strategy” is insane!
I noticed that the transport department ran a media campaign encouraging people to respect the rules of the road. Although it is good to have such a campaign, it appeared to occur in isolation. The implication was also there that this campaign alone will suddenly turn motorists and road users into compliant ones when they previously weren’t. Insane!
You simply refuse to see the obvious problems and lack the political will to solve them. I could hardly believe it when I read that you said that the government is in talks to soon introduce a system where metro police officers can randomly stop motorists and retest their driving. Insane!
The reality is that metro police officers are not qualified driving license examiners. Your ludicrous suggestion is not the solution, besides the fact that it would be illegal as only qualified driving license examiners are qualified to conduct these tests.
Your suggestion becomes even more ridiculous when one considers that the day before you made this crazy suggestion, you visited driving license testing centres in the East Rand of Gauteng. There you saw for yourself the bad service and allegations of fraud and corruption taking place.
Surely the logical course of action would be to sort out these problems happening at practically every single driving license centre in the country? Coupled with that would be mandatory retesting of drivers on renewal of their driving licenses every five years.
Until enforcement is taken seriously as a road safety measure and not a source of revenue, nothing will change. I speak from personal experience, as millions of other motorists will attest to the fact, that I often get stopped by traffic and other police and all that is checked is the validity of my driving license and my car disk. Nothing else is checked! This one dimensional approach does little to improve road safety. This practice has been going on for as long as I can remember, yet you expect improved results. Insane!
Why are drivers not fined for moving violations which we all see every day on our roads? This should be one of your key pillars in any road safety campaign.
Yet all this happens under your watch and you refuse to take action or responsibility. Surely by now you have realised that your strategies are not working? You must know this as your planned National Road Safety Summit which was to have been held in October 2014 was suddenly cancelled just days before the event, based on the fact that by your own admission “insufficient progress had been attained by state institutions on the resolutions adopted at the 2013 summit”. Insane!
You have the power to make changes now and to become the champion of road safety in South Africa. All you need to do is focus on doing a few things well, instead of lots of things badly.
Here are my proposed list of the few things you can do well:
• Ensure that the RTMC (Road Traffic Management Corporation) fulfils one of its core functions; collecting, collating and releasing accurate road statistics which can be used to develop strategies to reduce road carnage and deaths
• Review the out-of-date K53 licensing model which produces a high number of incompetent drivers
• Eradicate the widespread systemic corruption in both licensing and traffic law enforcement; this would include computerising processes so that human intervention is not required as it is now and is where corruption takes place.
• The complete change of culture by traffic law enforcement officials to become corruption free (with consequences for those that are corrupt), effective and visible 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Presently only the Western Cape has such a permanent visible traffic service. Other provinces only work during official office hours!
• Sort out and roll out the long awaited points-demerit system
In order for the above things to take place you would need to put some “firecrackers” under some of the transport agencies and officials that are in your watch. These agencies and officials need to take their mandates seriously. They need to be accountable so that their respective mandates becomes a reality.
I seriously urge you to consider the contents of this letter. I invite you to take my proposals as your own. This is not a political matter...it's a matter that affects our economy and the saving of lives. You Minister, could be a saver of thousands of lives if only you did a few things well and stopped doing the same things every year and hoping for different results. That is simply insane.
Words by MANNY DE FREITAS, Democratic Alliance, shadow minister of transport
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