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The 14 percent increase in the number of road fatalities during the 2021/2022 festive season compared to the 2020/2021 festive season is shocking and worrying and points to the need for urgent intervention and not promises of change. The Automobile Association (AA) says the horrific figures, released by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula today (SUBS:: 18 Jan 2022) will not be dealt with effectively unless real, effective amendments are made to current road safety practices.

 

“The fact that 1685 people died on the country’s roads in the short period from 1 December 2021 to 11 January 2022 indicates that current approaches are simply ineffective. And unless the urgent intervention focusses on road safety education, more extensive traffic law enforcement, and better prosecution of offenders, these numbers will not reduce. Also, focussing on single aspects of road safety such as drunk driving while ignoring others such as pedestrian safety will not result in significant reductions in road fatalities,” notes the AA.

 

The Association says in light of the figures released today, South Africa is far from achieving international targets it agreed to at the 3rd Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm, Sweden in early 2020. At that conference, South Africa committed itself to the international target of reducing road fatalities by half by 2030 as part of the worldwide 50BY30 Campaign.

 

“Given the current road safety framework in the country – one which continually blames human error as the major cause of crashes and road deaths – these targets will remain unattainable. Unless a more comprehensive approach which focusses on safer drivers, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and better post-crash intervention, and which involves inputs from civil society organisations such as the AA, our dire road fatality statistics will never improve,” says the AA.

 

The Association says it is also perplexed at Minister Mbalula’s remarks that, “We have just concluded one of the most challenging festive season campaigns, which stretched our resources to the limit, putting a strain on our law enforcement operations.”

 

“The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the lead agency responsible for road safety in South Africa, had a surplus of more than R260m in its 2020 financial year. This raises serious questions about the allocation of funds to promote road safety and the Minister’s claim that resources are being stretched to the limit,” the Association notes.

 

The Association says it also notes the Minister’s remarks that the Department of Transport will be appealing the ruling by the Pretoria High Court last week that the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), and its Amendments, are unconstitutional. The court found that “… the AARTO and Amendment Acts unlawfully intrude upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments respectively and as such, the two Acts are unconstitutional.”

 

“Too much money and time has been spent on a system which, in our view, is poorly constructed and which will not lead to a reduction in road fatalities or an improvement in road safety in general. The court has made its ruling, and instead of trying to revive a system which will ultimately fail, government would be well advised to focus its energies on implementing effective road safety solutions for the country as a matter of urgency,” concludes the AA.