Road fatality numbers are a continuing national crisis – AA

South Africa’s annual road fatality statistics for 2022 paint a grim picture of the dire road safety situation on the country’s roads and point to the need for more intensive action to curb what the Automobile Association (AA) considers a national crisis.

Released at the end of May, the Road Traffic Management Corporation’s (RTMC) State of Road Safety in South Africa (January 2022 to December 2022) notes that 12436 people died on South African roads last year. Of these fatalities, 5347 (or 43%) were pedestrians. Last year’s road fatality rate is marginally lower than the 12541 deaths recorded in 2021.

“Since 2013, 126546 people have died on our country’s roads. This is unacceptable and tragic, and while the RTMC notes that efforts have been made to improve the road safety environment, these are clearly not enough as our fatality rate only declines slightly year-on-year. Much more focus should be placed on road safety, especially by the RTMC, than what is currently being done,” notes the AA.

The Association says it is particularly concerned about the RTMC’s statement in the report that “funding for road safety remains a challenge”. The AA notes that in the context of the billions of Rands road crashes and fatalities cost the economy annually, and the heavy toll these deaths exact on the families of the deceased, the RTMC is duty-bound to find a better solution than its stated efforts of merely “… engaging the private sector for collaboration on implementation of road safety initiatives”.

“The RTMC is the lead agency responsible for road safety in South Africa, and its leadership enjoy significant salaries and bonusses annually. Yet our country’s road safety remains a massive problem and there doesn’t appear to be any progress in substantially decreasing the annual number of fatal crashes or fatalities. And if, as the RTMC states, ‘… there is still opportunity for better coordination of effort towards road safety to realize greater impact’, why has this not been addressed as a matter of urgency?” the AA asks.

According to the figures released by the RTMC, around 276 000 speeding violations were issued last year (the majority of which – 58% – in Gauteng), and more 11 000 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. It is unclear from the RTMC’s data how many of the violations were paid and how many of the arrested drunk drivers were prosecuted.

“Our country has a culture of driving with impunity where drivers regularly flout the law because of a lack of consequences. Speeding, drunk driving, and texting while driving is commonplace because there is simply not enough law enforcement to curb it. We again call on the Department of Transport to urgently implement the recommendations of the 2019 Traffic Law Enforcement Review Committee which, among other interventions, called for the number of traffic law enforcers in the country to be doubled,” the AA says.

The Association adds that given the high road death rate traffic law enforcement actions at specific times of the year are not enough.

“We are not surprised when Easter and end-of-year fatality numbers are high, despite increased traffic law intervention during these periods. Our view is that driver behaviour will never change over a three- or four-week period when, for the rest of the year, drivers are allowed to drive as they wish without any consequences. We maintain that our country is in serious need of proper traffic law enforcement intervention, and a substantial increase in road safety funding. Unless these two issues are dealt with, our country’s abysmal road safety situation will never improve,” the AA concludes.


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