Decrease in fatalities welcome, but more needs to be done

The small decrease in the number of fatalities on South African roads between the December 2022 and January 2023 festive period and the 2023/2024 period is commendable and signals a slight improvement in road safety efforts by authorities.

However, the Automobile Association (AA) remains concerned that the deaths of 1427 road users during the festive period is still too high, and that more needs to be done to effectively deal with road safety in South Africa. Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga released the festive season road fatality statistics today which cover the period 1 December 2023 to 11 January 2024.

The number of deaths during the current period is 25 lower than the previous year, and we acknowledge the efforts of law enforcers to deal more effectively with road safety. But this number is still too high, and we should guard against viewing this as a victory. We reiterate our view that heightened law enforcement over four-week period will not result in improved road safety when, for the other 48 weeks of the year, law enforcement is weak.

"According to the Minister, human factors accounted for 80 percent of all deaths during the festive period but this human factor – or driver behaviour – will only be changed over time, and our call continues to be for government to ensure more law enforcers are made available to police our country’s roads. In addition, more education and awareness campaigns must be initiated throughout the year to prioritise road safety,” notes the AA.

The AA says urgent intervention is required to deal more effectively with road safety. Without such intervention, the AA says, the horrific road fatality numbers reported annually by the Department of Transport will simply not decrease meaningfully.

“The dire road safety situation in South Africa is a national crisis and costs the economy around R200bn annually according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). In this environment, improving road safety will benefit all South Africans and it is now incumbent upon government to act decisively to ensure the situation improves,” concludes the AA.