BETTER POLICING NEEDED: Effective traffic policing is key to curbing road deaths in SA. Image: iStock
UPDATE: We've added reader responses at the end of this article.
Johannesburg - The Automobile Association (AA) is calling for more effective traffic policing as an urgent step to addressing road carnage in South Africa.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), approximately 13 000 people were killed on SA’s roads in 2015.
The AA calls for a radical rethink in traffic law enforcement authorities to address serious crashes and deaths on the country’s roads.
'Attitude needs to change'
The AA said: “Road safety in South Africa remains a major problem. Too many motorists simply ignore the rules believing that they are either above the law, will never be caught, or that they will not be harmed through their own reckless driving.
"If the death toll is to decrease, this attitude needs to change."
READ: Curb highway crime in SA - Users call for 'visible policing'
Johan Jonck, editor of Arrive Alive, says: "One of the major causes is human error - and especially recklessness," when asked what road carnage could be attributed to.
"This goes along with the belief among motorists that they 'need not fear the consequences' and only effective enforcement can remove or penalize these road users. More policing and effective policing that does not allow a motorists the evade the consequences with a bribe will definitely help to reduce carnage."
Drivers still take risks
The AA reports that South Africa has 19 000 - 20 000 traffic officers, but there are 750 000km of roadworks and people are traveling on these roads 24 hours a day.
The AA: “In our opinion there is too much emphasis placed on “static” policing where officers check for speeding cars or for expired licence discs while stationed at the side of the road. While a zero tolerance approach is good, this alone simply doesn’t work as risky motorists adjust their behaviour until they are past these points.”
The enforcement of laws against dangerous driving actions need to be prioritised by law enforcement authorities. This includes monitoring drivers who speed but also those who overtake dangerously, drive in emergency lanes to avoid traffic congestion, use electronic devices while driving, or who swerve in and out of traffic without regard for other drivers.
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Asked what motorists can do to curb reckless driving, Jonck said: "There's little our motorists could do but be much adopt more defensive driving on our roads."
Jonck said that it is imperative that intersections are approached with caution, that drivers remain alert, sober and non-distracted.
READ: Grim toll - Huge increase in SA road deaths
Attention where it's needed
The AA said: “Laws are flouted and lives are risked on the road not the side of the road, and that is where our law enforcers need to be: on the road. The areas, which are known to the police and public where laws are consistently being ignored, should receive focused attention.”
An important aspect of how road users can assist law enforces, is education in road safety. Jonck said: "We need to start at school with the youngest of the young. There are now programmes addressing this, such as the Imperial safe scholar programme, school patrol etc...
"52% of South Africans are now online," Jonck said, "and that is the bit we try to reach. For (the other 48%) there are many other activations and platforms that could reach them, as well."
Reducing road deaths
The AA concluded: “There needs to be a strong message across South Africa to all road users: the police will act if you drive in a manner that endangers other road users, and there will be severe consequences for your actions. While this approach may not immediately solve the long-term problems inherent on our rods, we believe it is a necessary first step to saving lives.”
Jonck added when asked how deaths on SA's roads can be reduced: "Definitely focus on defensive driving! It simply is too dangerous not to give it your full attention 24/7," and made special mention of road safety.
WATCH: Johan Jonck shares road safety tips
In April 2016 Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced that investigations into several major crashes would be undertaken by her department and the RTMC, in part with a view to improving policing on roads.
South Africa awaits the outcomes of these investigations with keen interest, and how these will translate into specific policing interventions to reduce road deaths in South Africa.
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Stephan Burger: "Please try to educate and monitor drivers especially taxi combis. Speed-trapping alone is NOT the answer! Visible policing a must and I agree with article on reckless lane changing overtaking and ignoring simple rules of road. Too much time and energy spent on sedatory income-producing speed-trapping instead of monitoring for licence/alcohol/ ignoring rules of road!"Richard Conde: "Bring in a points system. Compulsory insurance for every vehicle. Insurance increase (doubles) when claiming."