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Road slaughter: When will it stop?

2013-04-03 13:39

'CONCRETE PLAN OF ACTION NEEDED': Reader CHRIS BARRY says drastic action is needed to reduce SA's staggering road death toll.


Earlier in 2013 we reported that Africa in particular is losing the fight against road accidents which kill more than a million people each year worldwide.

South Africa weighs in with an official 14 000 dead a year - some sources put the figure as high as 20 000 through inaccurate data recording.

Reader CHRIS BARRY says each year thousands of are killed on our roads yet the government never formulates concrete plans to decrease them:

“With long weekends and holidays, road safety is a hot topic of conversation. Every year we get stats and facts on road fatalities but never formulate concrete plans to decrease them.

Thousands if not millions of Rands are spent on road safety campaigns, yet the impact seem to have minimal effects.


What urged me specifically to write this, is the recent tragedy where 24 victims died in a bus accident in the Western Cape. Something that caught my attention was President Jacob Zuma’s remark that he was shocked by the incident.

Shock is something that indicates “surprise”. Currently there is an average of 41 road fatalities a day, which means these fatalities, with all respect to these victims, is half the daily “quota”.

Of course an accident of this magnitude is horrifying, but the reality is that it is an everyday occurrence, as we can see by the fatality statistics.

The Transport Minister called for a “speedy investigation” into the incident, however this tragedy is in the past, so what use is another investigation if it will not lead to substantial solutions?


Minister your department has been consulted and informed numerous times by extremely competent transport experts that have indicated solutions to reverse the shocking statistics of road fatalities in South Africa which approximate a staggering 20000 a year.

There are however positive steps that could be taken to stop future carnage, these include the following:

1 As Mandi Smallhorne stated in an article in 2012 it is vital to bring back personal infringement notices. For example, a law enforcement officer stopping and fining a motorist for an infringement has more impact on the motorist than receiving another photo of a speed infringement.

2 In a debate recently, an Australian exchange student commented that South African motorists and road users use the Rules of the Road as “guidelines”, in other words they do not see the law as the law (as in Australia).

3 Only the ethical corporate and citizens with consciences are compliant with roadworthiness and discipline because they embrace it themselves.

There needs to be a partnership between Government and the best practices set by the Private Sector to take over all the roadworthy centres with the aim to reduce the level of corruption which currently governs our roads.

4 Road safety should become an integral part of education in schools.

5 The government allowed the State Driver Training Facilities to collapse. Proper best practice needs to be embraced with proper incentives for driver training.

6 Brake failure in commercial vehicles is normally a euphemism to dilute the real reason for the accident, which is speed. The reference to a hairpin bend and the bus going through an arrester bed implies exactly this. Please note this is no personal dismissal or blame on the driver of this tragedy.

I am sick and tired of the political grandstanding which masks how little government is doing to attack the root causes of the scourge.


Government is not alone; South Africans in general need to apply a lot of introspection. On this point, my understanding is that there has been no conviction for the shocking state that the bus was in in the Knysna bus tragedy, 2011.

7 To be effective, arrester beds have to be maintained. If they are it is unlikely that a coach would “go straight through it”. Respected transport journalist, Patrick O’Leary calls it “a war out there”. A war on getting the authorities to take action.

I agree, Mr President, I also find this shocking, but there are two issues to the “shock”:

1 The government’s real effort in enforcing matters in transport that it controls is pathetic.
2 The denial of how strong some private sector companies are in respect of ethics and how Public/Private partnerships could start to change the tide.

It is imperative that both road users and government take action to decrease the statistic before the tragedies become mundane.”

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