While the general road safety situation on South African roads can only be described as dire, it is exacerbated when children, in particular, become part of the gruesome statistics. ASHREF ISMAIL looks into the issue.

During the recent Easter holidays, politicians – as is their habit – donned the obligatory reflective vests, visited roadblocks, and put on an act for the cameras as they chatted to drivers about being safe on the roads. Sadly, this scenario only plays out during the Festive and Easter seasons, and for the rest of the year, politicians and general law enforcement agencies seem conspicuous by the absence, corruption, ineptitude, or straight-up incompetence.

The topic of road safety and children is always an emotive one. Just ask any paramedic or road safety practitioner who has had to attend to crashes where children were also casualties. Nothing tugs at the heartstrings quite like watching a precious, young, innocent child bleeding as a result of a car accident or worse still, lying lifeless on the ground.

This senseless and needless slaughter (yes, that’s what we have to call the average more than 45 people who lose their lives on our roads every day) is because of the lawlessness that we as South Africans have become used to. Apart from the hopelessly inadequate traffic law enforcement in the country leading to the type of behaviour we witness daily on our roads, South Africans need also to become voluntarily compliant.


Road safety in schools is, unfortunately, covered very informally and haphazardly; discussed only when there is nothing else to talk about. What educators and the authorities fail to understand is that road safety is a science, and if covered systematically in school curricula, will go a long way towards inculcating the correct attitude and behaviour on our roads, from a formative age.

Also gone from the school curriculum was the “Bridge Programme”, which, together with the School Driver Education Programme taught the young adults not only about road signs, rules and regulations, but importantly, the law of physics and why a vehicle behaves the way it does as well as the psychology of driving. All of which could not be covered in the archaic K53 system.

While I am quite sure that the Department of Education would probably counter that teachers are overworked as it is and that the curriculum is jammed with a number of socio-economic issues, one needs to identify the priority and road safety should enjoy greater priority. This can be done quite creatively by incorporating road safety, as a regular theme in almost every subject. Think about it: which subject could not lend itself to a topic on road safety? Very few, right?

As parents, much can be done about inculcating non-negotiable road safety behaviour from a young age whether it is buckling up or practising safe road crossing habits. Children learn from adults, and our immature conduct behind the wheel in respect of road rage is going to be copied by the youngsters. So too, will they learn about the “shortcuts” we take when going for licenses, vehicle roadworthiness, or the bribes we pay at roadside checkpoints. It’s not worth it because it will come back to haunt us.


Finally, one of the best gifts we could give to our novice drivers is to enroll them for an advanced; defensive driving skills course immediately After obtaining their driving licenses and before the bad habits set it. Accredited advanced driver enhancement institutions will teach them critical observation skills, hazard identification and avoidance, car control, driving in adverse conditions and driving with mechanical sympathy. A customised course could also include aspects such as incident management, hijack prevention, your rights at a roadblock and primary car care.



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