Image: Western Cape Transport
Cape Town - Some concerning driving trends have been observed on the roads resulting in increased number of head-on collisions, says the Western Cape Transport Department.
Donald Grant, Western Cape MEC for Transport and Public Works, said: "These head-on collisions have been largely due to driver error and reckless driving, resulting in serious injury and death.
"We also know that the increased traffic volumes experienced over the Easter period are likely to exacerbate the problem. Increased traffic volumes are known to, in turn, result in the increased risk of crashes and serious injury on our roads.
"Our plans have been specifically formulated to respond effectively to the extraordinary challenges that the Easter period brings with it. We hope that the current plan will not only address the dangers caused by reckless and irresponsible road use, but also go a long way to ensuring that injury or unnecessary death on our roads is avoided."
New year trend
During the first weekend of April 2017, there were 7 head-on collisions that claimed the lives of 18 people, including that of Provincial Traffic Officer Charmaine Olivier, who was killed on the road between Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West when another vehicle overtook and collided head on with her vehicle. Officer Olivier died on the scene, and the other driver was arrested and faces criminal charges.
These reported head-on collisions claimed a total of 35 lives since the beginning of the year, 16 drivers and 19 passengers.
Grant said: "'Addressing these senseless crashes requires an approach focussed on drivers and changing their behaviour towards adherence to the rules of the road. Many will witness reckless and irresponsible driving on our roads on a daily basis, and even more have seen their disastrous consequences. Obeying the rules of the road is a non-negotiable, and we will be dedicating resources towards addressing errant road use that we know cause the horrific crashes that we see."
"The main causes of these crashes remain reckless and irresponsible road use (ignoring road rules, including drinking and driving), as well as fatigue; each required specifically tailored interventions targeted at drivers."
The last three Easter periods (from 2014) has seen high fatalities over the Easter weekend that are compounded by the the ever-increasing number of vehicles, bound for various destinations during this time.
Easter weekend fatalities in the Western Cape: 2014 - 2016
Pedestrians have continued to be the leading class of fatality when it comes to Easter weekend fatalities, with 15 pedestrians killed last year. Vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers) remain the second leading class of fatality.
Integrated Operational Plan
The Easter Operational Plan continues to be evidence-driven, and has identified high-risk routes that have seen some of the more serious crashes over the Easter period in recent years.
The plan is a phased approach that will span from the 15th of March 2017 until the 30th of June 2017.
Interventions and resources will be directed strategically to these areas to target the errant behaviour that causes fatal crashes, namely excessive alcohol consumption, fatigue, and excessive speeding, which are often both causal and aggravating factors to injury or death.
Comparative statistics over the past three years show that enforcement officers have stopped many vehicles and screened drivers for alcohol and fatigue.
The province will focus on the following during Easter:
• Driver fitness
• Vehicle fitness
• Load management
• Dangerous driver behaviour
• Pedestrian behaviour
Smart enforcement yields results
Over the past few years, the Department of Transport and Public Works has employed what it calls 'smart enforcement' initiatives:
Grant said: "We continue to see positive results from our smart enforcement efforts which we will be expanding in the near future. Some smart enforcement initiatives include the:
"Average Speed Over Distance (ASOD) camera enforcement network, which is live at various locations of the N2, as well as along the R61, the R27, and most of the N1. The total coverage by the system is 452kms. On all of the stretches where ASOD has been implemented, we have seen decreased speeds and fewer transgressions on average. We have also seen a decrease in speed-related crashes that were commonplace along the R61 before the implementation of the ASOD system."
He said: "Hand-held devices for traffic officers which were first introduced in December 2015, and have been used by traffic officers in the field, as a fast, information-verifying tool that will assist enforcement. The devices were a first of their kind in South Africa, and allow traffic officers real-time access to the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera system, which is linked to the eNaTIS database where all vehicle and driver information is stored. The cameras ‘read’ the number plate of a passing vehicle, immediately relaying details of that vehicle’s make, class, registration status (outstanding licence fees), roadworthy status, offences, warrants, and ownership to a central back office.
"This information can then immediately be relayed, via an alert on the device, back to traffic officers in the field, positioned close to the ANPR, allowing them to stop a vehicle that has been flagged by the device for having offences attached to it. This system has been a force multiplier for our traffic officers on the field, making real-time enforcement possible.
What about Dashcams?
Grant said: "We are currently in the process of installing dashcams in unmarked vehicles which will be deployed to hotspot areas across the province to tackle reckless and negligent driving, such as ignoring road signs and overtaking on solid barrier lines or on blind rises. Officers in these vehicles can then immediately arrest, and not just fine, drivers caught driving recklessly. The footage captured on the dashcams can then be used as evidence against these drivers that continue to place the lives of many in danger."