Analysing Festive Season road fatalities – 2:3

The Road Safety Partnership South Africa (RSP-SA) has analysed the 2023/2024 Festive Season road fatality rates to provide perspective on whether the decrease in stats was truly dismal.

In January, Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga revealed there was a 1.7% and 2.3% decrease in road fatalities and fatal crashes respectively. These stats sparked heated debate over whether the decrease is something of which to be proud.

The RSP-SA says commentators are often equating loss of life to numbers on a page. “A 1.7% decrease does seem small but one must never forget this is also 24 human lives that were spared.

“Additionally, change takes time. South Africa committed to both the UN’s First and Second Decade of Action for Road Safety aiming to reduce road fatalities by 50%. The only way to see tangible change is through small steps toward the ultimate goal.”

While 1.7% is disappointing for some, the bigger picture provides more hope. “Over the last five years, there was only one increase in road fatalities over the Festive Season with four years of decreases. The 1 427 people that lost their lives on the road, while tragic, is still less than pre-COVID levels of 1 617 fatalities in 2019.

“Additionally, between the 2019/2020 and 2023/2024 Festive Seasons, there was a total 12.2% decrease in fatalities over that period. Despite starting the Second Decade with a large increase in fatalities, there were two years of subsequent decreases. Thus, while 1.7% is a small reduction, it is still two for three in the Second Decade of Action.”

Minister Chikunga also commended law enforcement for their efforts. “Again, many road safety commentators disagree because the reduction is low. A more constructive focus, however, is to not disparage the efforts of any group in reducing road fatalities. It is a combined effort from government, corporates, NPOs and individuals that brings change and should not be discouraged.”

The RSP-SA takes encouragement from the decrease. “As we embark into our third year of running the VIA programme in association with various multinationals, we look forward to making our contribution to further reductions.

“Last year, 1 950 children benefitted from the Safe-to-School, Safe-to-Home project and in 2024, a minimum of 1 200 will again be equipped with skills and knowledge to develop safe road users from a young age. Each contribution that South African organisations make is what helps the country take both big and small steps in the right direction,” says the RSP-SA.

The second year in a row with decreased road fatality rates is something that should continue motivating change in road fatalities in South Africa. Even a small decrease is better than a 1.7% increase.

An overview of road fatalities: pre-COVID to post-COVID

Year

Percentage increase or decrease

2019/2020

10% decrease 

2020/2021

10.6% decrease 

2021/2022

14% increase 

2022/2023

13.9% decrease

2023/2024

1.7% decrease