Fewer people die on the roads this Christmas holiday

Henry

Only 25 fewer deaths were recorded on the country’s roads over the past festive season, but according to the transport minister, these statistics by no means paint the full picture of the real situation.

Conditions on most of the country’s roads were actually of such a nature that many more deaths could have been expected, but according to few. Sindisiwe Chikunga’s sustained efforts to reduce road deaths finally paid off this year.

On Wednesday, Chikunga released the preliminary road death figure for the period between December last year and January.

According to the statistics, there was only a 1.7% decrease in deaths in this period, bringing the number of deaths to 1,452.

She says the past festive period was characterized by heavy rainfall and devastating storms which resulted in various challenges.

“Unfortunately, some motorists did not adjust their speed on the wet and slippery roads, and this led to numerous avoidable accidents,” she says.

“In other cases, such as in KwaZulu-Natal, motorists insisted on driving over flooded bridges, causing their cars to be washed away.”

It was also one of the busiest festive periods on the road: A total of 168,000 more registered vehicles were on the road than in 2022-’23.

Most accidents occurred in the first, third and fourth week of the period. According to Chikunga, most people have already received salaries in the first week (December 1‑7). The third week (15‑21 December) included a long weekend, and was also the time when most people went on holiday. The fourth week (22‑28 December) was the week of Christmas, which also included a long weekend and caused heavy traffic on the roads.

As December progressed, the traffic built up so badly that more than 850,000 vehicles were recorded on the road on 20 December.

Most accidents happened between 19:00 and 22:00, but the roads were particularly dangerous between 20:00 and 21:00.

“Most deaths were recorded on Sundays, which is a new trend this year,” Chikunga said.

There were a total of 1,184 fatal road accidents. This is still a 2.3% decrease in the number of fatal road accidents recorded during the same period in 2022-23.

Chikunga attributed this decrease to the “intensified law enforcement and high police visibility nationwide”.

“More than 1.4 million vehicles were stopped and searched over the past festive period and this led to the arrest of 7,820 motorists. These drivers were arrested for, among other things, driving under the influence of alcohol, negligent and reckless driving or excessive speed.”b

A speedster was arrested in Limpopo while driving at 225 km/h.

A motorist was caught in the Eastern Cape after he far exceeded the legal alcohol level by testing 2.48 mg.

Since 2018, the number of road deaths has decreased annually. The number of annual road deaths in the five-year period decreased from 12,921 to 12,436, which represents a decrease of 485.

However, Chikunga said that the road deaths during the past festive season are more than just statistics, but “people whose hopes for a future have been crushed”.

She said these individuals include, among others, a member of parliament, Alice Mthembu; two medical doctors from KwaZulu-Natal; a traffic inspector from Limpopo who was hit by a motorist who exceeded the speed limit on the N1; as well as a newly married woman who died only seven days after her wedding.

“They were breadwinners, professionals, mothers, fathers and children who lost their lives due to unnecessary, reckless and negligent behavior on our roads,” said Chikunga.

“Although we recognize that valuable progress has been made, there is still a long way to go which will require partnerships, resources and the promotion of road safety research.”