Back to safety after the holidays?

News headlines have not had much good news about road deaths in 2016

You’ve survived another mad summer holiday season to the sea and back, now you’re tackling 2017 along with everyone else and you’ve got some serious plans for the year ahead.

Problem is, you’re through what is likely the safest period on local roads.

In typical South African fashion, you’ve been following the headlines (and news on internet sites, like those pictured above) and lamenting the death toll during this supposedly festive season of holidays and high times. According to this article, 1714 people died in the period between December 1 last year and January 9, 2017.

That’s nearly 43 people per day over the 40 day period, an unacceptably high number no matter how you work the figures. This also scratches at the surface of the problem as it does not take into account the effect these deaths have on their families – or indeed the economic impact to the people affected. It is a significant problem, but are we looking at this correctly?

According to the Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters, in her speech on the release of the preliminary road safety statement, here in the Eastern Cape we suffered 211 deaths over the period, which is a reduction of nearly 20 percent over the previous season. That’s a significant decrease – especially in an environment which overall saw the number of deaths rise – but it is still five people dying on the road every single day.

One Eastern Cape traffic official in Aliwal North, Fulton Flinger (although my research would indicate he is Fulton Slinger) was mentioned in Minister Peters’ speech, for arresting four motorists who attempted bribery.

The problem is, we always focus on road safety over the festive period and school holidays when the volumes of traffic make for newsworthy pieces. Roads are crowded, temperatures are high and then access to the beach gets restricted in the Western Cape and in KwaZulu-Natal. Gripping stuff.

What about the rest of the year? Well, back in 2009 (the last figures available on the Arrive Alive website) 13 768 people died on the roads between 1 January and 31 December – or 38 per day. That was eight years ago and there hasn’t been a significant increase in road safety, it seems instead to be heading in the wrong direction.

Looking at the festive season just completed and comparing the 2009 figures, we have this … The 2016 festive season killed 43 people daily for a period of 40 days (1714 without getting into decimals). In 2009 South African road users died at a rate of 1 520 people every 40 days (38 people daily) – outside of the festive season.

With the large volume of traffic during the summer break, you would expect accident figures would soar. Instead, there is a difference of just five people per day for every 40 days of the year.

Account for the much lower traffic volumes outside of the summer season and you begin to grasp the road safety problem in this country.

Now that a large percentage of the population is back at work, there is a constant rush to make up for all that money spent over Christmas. People are trying to start the year off with enthusiasm, working hard but distracted by all the things that need to get organised to make the year start off at its best.

You see it on the road, people driving aggressively, pushing hard and also distracted and not paying attention to what they are doing. It is a dangerous time to be on the road and you should stay aware and alert on the road at all times to ensure your safety and those of your passengers.


Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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