South Africa loses an average of 17,000 people to road crashes annually, meaning about 45 people are killed each day – needlessly and senselessly due to recklessness, negligence, and corruption.
The high numbers of crashes on our roads definitely attest to the fact that the authorities need to act vigorously and decisively to deal with lawlessness on the road. The judiciary too, must impose harsh penalties so that road crashes are made socially untenable.
These are the six most lethal causes of road deaths in South Africa:
High speed versus the surrounding circumstances is the number one killer. Forget the academic debates about sophisticated active and passive safety features. The simple scientific fact of the matter is that the faster you go, the more time and space you need to bring the car to halt, and if you cannot, the harder the impact and the resultant damage and casualties. By travelling not just within the speed limit, but also suitable to the conditions, you are giving yourself sufficient time to identify the hazard and react accordingly.
Driving and walking while under the influence is the second biggest killer on South African roads. According to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), more than 60% of crashes over weekends are as a result of alcohol abuse… Clearly then, drinking and driving or even walking while under the influence is extremely unsafe.
Over 40% of our annual fatality rates comprise of pedestrians. South Africa has some of the highest fatality rates amongst pedestrians in the world. This is due to drunken walking, jaywalking, walking on freeways, wearing clothes that are not visible at night, as well as distracted walking.
Reckless and negligent driving causes endless headaches for authorities. Daily, “bad behaviour” on the roads is witnessed: drivers who drive through red lights, in yellow lanes, sometimes facing on-coming traffic, overtake on barrier lines and/or in the face of oncoming vehicles, and travel at excessive speeds in overloaded and un-roadworthy vehicles. Bad behaviour happens because road traffic law enforcement is perceived (maybe rightfully so) to be corrupt, incompetent, inept, and hopelessly inadequate.
Distracted driving includes more than just using your cell phone whilst driving. This includes acts that take your eyes and mind away from the business of driving. Dangerous driving habits include: eating, fiddling with the radio or aircon, turning to give the baby the milk bottle and the likes, are all concerning factors that compromise drivers’ concentration.
South Africans have a high propensity for taking risks, especially on the road. Our knowledge of road rules and regulations is inadequate and our understanding of the forces of nature and the laws of physics acting on a vehicle means that we do not appreciate the inherent dangers of driving. Added to this is the thinking that “it can not/will not happen to me” which, coupled with our fatalistic attitude, is a recipe for disaster. A great place to start is to ensure that we buckle up at all times, front and rear, irrespective of the distance. It’s the right and safest thing to do.
Let us change our mindsets and be prepared, be polite, be patient and ultimately, get there safely.
Report by ASHREF ISMAIL | Images © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM