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Road slaughter: Reader responds

2013-04-04 11:13

SA’S GRIM ROAD DEATH TOLL: South Africa’s roads claim a total of 20 000 lives each year

We recently reported that South Africa's annual road death toll weighs in at official 14 000 each year - though some sources put the figure as high as 20 000 through inaccurate data recording.

Reader CHRIS BARRY wrote to us stating that despite the fact thousands are killed on our roads, the government "never formulates concrete plans to decrease them".

Reader FIONA SEEDAT responds to BARRY’s article on SA road slaughter and says government departments should “present a unified stance” to combat road deaths:

“I read Chris Barry’s article and must comment on his response to the president’s  reaction of being "shocked" when hearing of the 24 lives lost in the Hex River Pass bus crash.

Well Chris, I am shocked that losing 40 lives per day to road deaths in our country does not warrant a mention in the President’s State of the Nation address.


I listened closely over the last 4-5 years but no mention of this crisis, I asked my friends and colleagues to make sure that I did not miss a mention of this each year but they agreed . . . NOTHING. Road accident fatalities claim more lives than the dread diseases (TB and Aids) and these receive full attention but road  deaths, total indifference. 

Clearly the road-using public takes its lead from our executive government who comment on defamatory paintings, e-Tolls and strikes but not road  fatalities.

I would also ask what Chris means by his comment "the government never formulates concrete plans to decrease them".

From the media coverage over Easter, I would assume that the strategic road blocks and increased presence of traffic officer in key accident hot spots, as identified by the stats and facts from previous years, are the implementation of concrete plans.

I have seen the TV adverts (Get There No Regrets campaign), heard the radio clips all advising travellers to stop regularly, check their vehicle, check their tyres and other road-safety tips.

I have paid attention to the increased messages about road safety as we near these peak travel times. Perhaps I misunderstand the concept of concrete plans? 

I agree with some of Chris’ points especially the question about what government is doing to attack the root causes of the scourge. A good starting point is investigating and closing down the testing centres responsible for issuing fraudulent roadworthy certificates.

Owners of defective vehicles should be fined and made to pay their drivers for the time that their vehicles are being repaired and re-tested. If drivers are getting paid for the time off work rather than sitting without pay they will be compliant in reporting unroadworthy vehicles to the correct authorities.

We know that when you affect the earning and profit potential you see compliance, when the owners have to pay rather than rake in profit then they will start to care. Where deaths occur, the owners should face criminal charges along with the drivers.


To this end the government departments need to present a unified stance, the departments of labour, justice, health and economic development must work together to ensure a tangible impact is made to decrease the horrifying figures.

Judges must pronounce valid and punitive sentences for lives lost and bodies damaged. Testing of blood samples to establish if drivers were drunk must be done speedily and effectively, not sit in a laboratory for months/years and result in cases dismissed because of this ridiculous delay.

Laws around the use and sale of alcohol must be reviewed. Conditions of drivers of long-distance and heavy goods vehicles must be efficiently supervised by the department of labour, fair working conditions and remuneration means more-competent drivers.

Road safety education at schools is key. Buckle-up is something all children must do as a reflex when they get into a car.

Reducing the road fatality figures takes a concerted effort by all South Africans. We cannot bleat and moan about what road traffic enforcement agencies are not doing effectively and focus on assisting them in our own personal lives.

How many times must we be reminded to reduce speed, not drink and drive, buckle up and be safe drivers? Is there an expectation that we should have a traffic officer accompany every driver on every trip that we make? No, we should grow up and act in a manner that contributes to solving the problem rather than whinge about how somebody else is to blame. “

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