The preliminary Festive Season Road Safety Report shows that 1 612 people lost their lives on the country’s roads from 1 December 2018 to 8 January 2019.
That means 1 612 families lost a loved one. 1 612 families possibly lost a breadwinner plunging that family into financial dire straits as the year starts. Parents lost children. Children lost parents.
“These statistics should shock us as South Africans and put change into motion but we seem to have become desensitized to the carnage on our roads,” says Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organization (RMI).
And while chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, Dikeledi Magadzi, has called for severe punishment for the transgressors of the rules of the road and zero tolerance towards people arrested for drunk driving, “we need to take personal responsibility for making our roads safer,” believes Olivier. “Just because we were the fortunate ones who got through the festive season without an accident it doesn’t mean it couldn’t be us next.”
He says the roadworthiness of vehicles and regular maintenance is key to bringing about change. “We strongly believe that the implementation of Periodic Vehicle Testing and Inspection (PTI) will yield great benefits to the country in terms of reducing the road deaths, creating jobs and stimulating the retail sector with the maintenance of vehicles in a safe and roadworthy condition,” he says.
Ferose Oaten, National Chairperson of the VTA, says currently only 21% of the current registered vehicle population are required to be tested on a regular basis. “New vehicles are manufactured to the highest safety standards, and while new vehicles coming off the assembly line are safer now than ever before, in South Africa, our response to in-use vehicle inspection controls is not adequate. Vehicles can age without changing ownership, and no vehicle test is required. Socio-economic factors are adding to this problem and vehicles are not being maintained,” she says. While the legislation for more frequent testing of vehicles has been gazetted, this is yet to be implemented at a date to be determined by the Minister of Transport. Other countries have shown a decrease in road deaths with the implementation of periodic vehicle inspection. “We strongly believe this should be included in the National Road Policy for implementation but until then it is our responsibility to ensure our vehicles are roadworthy,” says Olivier.
“We also, however, need to see a change in driver behavior. Driving responsibly goes a long way to extending the life of your vehicle and its parts and will, without a doubt, reduce deaths on our roads.”
He says now is the time to start practicing better behavior while driving. “We can’t wait until the Easter weekend is here to start making changes. Stick to speed limits and keep a good following distance. Just because others are speeding, it doesn’t mean you have to. The far-right lane is the fast lane. Stay out of this lane if you are feeling pressured by other drivers to break the speed limit. The same applies to the yellow emergency lane. This lane is intended for emergency vehicles, vehicles that have broken down or an escape route for vehicles to use to avoid an accident. You should not be in this lane otherwise, irrespective of what others are doing.”
He also suggests leaving earlier to avoid rushing. “You’ll find you are far calmer and accommodating when you have time to spare. Be forgiving if people make mistakes and let’s all be less aggressive towards other drivers.”
Lastly, he reiterates that the onus is on you to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive. “It’s important to regularly service and maintain the vehicle and request a full safety inspection from qualified mechanics and technicians preferably from an accredited-RMI member.”
Olivier supports Magadzi’s drive to implement additional and new programmes that will strengthen speed enforcement and vehicle roadworthiness measures. “We wholeheartedly back more law enforcement operations and the prioritising of solutions for fatal hotspots to reduce accidents. Yes, something drastic has to be done. As citizens, we too need to internalise and understand what these deaths are doing to our country and make a change,” he concludes.