Some plans to improve road safety and road infrastructure in South Africa announced by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula in his Department’s 2021/2022 Budget Speech on Friday are to be welcomed. But, says the Automobile Association (AA), many workable solutions, which will have an immediate impact on road safety, are not addressed, and necessary details are excluded.

The AA says targets to reduce road deaths in South Africa by 25% by 2024 will not be met within the current framework. It says it is concerned that recommendations by the ministerially appointed Traffic Law Enforcement Review Committee (TLERC) are not mentioned anywhere in the Minister’s speech.

“When the recommendations by the TLERC were released in 2019 we noted that a failure to implement them would amount to a serious dereliction of duty by government. Increasing the working hours of traffic law enforcers, and introducing body cameras for them to wear, will alone not solve our country’s road safety crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and a blueprint for better traffic law enforcement is on the table. We have to question why it has not received more attention by the Department of Transport or the Minister,” says the AA.

In addition, the Association remains concerned that the internationally accepted – and proven – Safe Systems Approach to road safety, which addresses safer vehicles, safer drivers, better roads, and better post-crash intervention, is not considered as part of efforts to bring down road crashes and deaths in South Africa, one of the countries with the highest per capita road deaths in the world.

“We currently have a situation where government is introducing new laws, or amending existing laws, believing legislation will somehow improve the country’s road safety crisis. Insufficient emphasis is given to underlying problems such as implementation, education, and systems. Unless these factors are contemplated as the first step in solving the road safety crisis nothing will change and any targets will, sadly, remain unachievable,” says the AA.

The AA says ongoing, nationwide, intensive road safety education is needed from pre-primary school level through to high school and should be complemented by year-round road safety campaigns and on-the-road programmes.

“Road safety is not something that must only happen during festive periods. If we are serious about road safety – and we all should be – then much more must be done urgently,” says the AA.

 

E-tolls

On the issue of e-tolls, the AA says the fact that Minister Mbalula missed yet another deadline to address the future of the system in Gauteng is dismaying, casting even more doubt among motorists on the way forward for this system.

“In March we noted that the numerous delays in pronouncing on the future of e-tolls are causing uncertainty and will, effectively, scupper any plans to continue with the system in its current format. The public has been assured time and again that an announcement on e-tolls will be made, only to be disappointed when each deadline passes without a word from government.

The Association says it again refers to its Road Funding Report of 2019 which clearly shows that Gauteng motorists have no intention of ever paying for tolls. Nothing has changed.

 

“We stand by our earlier comments that government must be bold in taking a firm decision to terminate e-tolls with immediate effect, cancel any outstanding debt, reimburse those who have paid, and fund e-tolls through a (nominal) tax on fuel. Gauteng motorists have been patient, and it’s unfair to keep them guessing for much longer,” concludes the AA.