Eight of the nine provinces recorded reduced fatalities, but there was a decrease in traffic volumes. Picture: REUTERS
Eight of the nine provinces recorded reduced fatalities, but there was a decrease in traffic volumes. Picture: REUTERS

There was a 7% drop in road fatalities over the 2020 festive season compared to the year before, and a 10.3% decline in fatal crashes year-on-year.

A total of 1,448 people died on South African roads in 1,210 fatal crashes over the 2020/2021 festive season, compared to 1,616 people dying over the same period in 2019/2020.

While this may seem to provide a glimmer of hope for SA’s dismal road safety record, the drop in road fatalities coincided with an 8.8% decrease in traffic volumes, from 1,556,704 the previous year, to 1,419,782.

Announcing SA’s 2020 festive season road statistics on Friday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said that between December 1 2020 and January 11 2021, traffic authorities conducted one of the most challenging road safety campaigns undertaken in recent history. It was a period characterised by a high number of Covid-19 infections among traffic officers, incessant rainfall and a moderate decline in traffic volumes.

All provinces had decreases in fatalities, with the exception of Mpumalanga which recorded an increase of 4.4%.

“Although there was a decline in fatalities in eight of the nine provinces, we fell short in achieving our ambitious 20% target we set for this festive season,” Mbalula said at a media conference in Eldorado Park.

“We are encouraged that these reductions make a positive contribution towards the realisation of our target of reducing fatalities on our roads.”

However, he noted that a few intransigent motorists were on the road when they should not have been. As a result, 34.1% of crashes happened during the curfew, between midnight and 6am.

More than half (54.3%) of fatal crashes occurred on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, suggesting that the majority of crashes took place within residential areas long after travellers had reached their destinations.

There was a notable decline of 4.9% in the number of pedestrians who died on the roads compared to the previous year. However, driver fatalities increased from 24.2% to 26.9%, passenger fatalities increased from 32.2% to 34.5% while cyclist fatalities stood at 1%.

The main cause of crashes were jaywalking, hit and run, speeding, overtaking into oncoming traffic, wet and slippery surfaces and tyre bursts, said Mbalula.

“We are encouraged to note that fewer minibus vehicles were involved in fatal crashes over this period. Minibus vehicles accounted for 8.2% of fatal crashes compared to 11.1% in the previous year,” he added.

“We have noted with concern that heavy vehicles had an increased contribution to fatal crashes. Heavy vehicles, with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) greater 3,500kg, were involved in 5.2% of fatal crashes compared to 3.7% last year.”  

Articulated trucks were involved in 4.7% of fatal crashes compared to 4.9% previously.

“Light delivery vehicles accounted for 24.6% of fatalities compared to 22.2% in the previous year, while motorcycles accounted for 1.9% compared to zero in the previous year.

The breakdown of fatalities per province is as follows:

• Western Cape declined 15.9%, with 132 fatalities compared to 157 in 2019/2020.

•  KwaZulu-Natal declined 14%, with 289 fatalities compared to 336 in 2019/20.

•  Limpopo declined 8.3%. with 188 fatalities compared to 205 in 2019/2020.

•  Northern Cape declined 7.7%, with 36 fatalities compared to 39 in 2019/2020.

•  Gauteng declined 7.2%, with 231 fatalities compared to 249 in 2019/20.

• North West declined 2.0%, with 99 fatalities compared to 101 in 2019/2020.

• Eastern Cape declined 1.3%, with 228 fatalities compared to 231 in 2019/20.

• Free State declined 0.9%, with 107 fatalities compared to 108 in 2019/20.

• Mpumalanga increased 4.4%, with 141 fatalities compared to 135 in 2019/2020.

The N3 was the busiest route with an increase in traffic volumes from 951,833 in the previous period to 987,596. There was a significant decline in traffic volumes on the N4, with 110,676 vehicles recorded as opposed to 208,883 vehicles recorded the previous year.

The following roads accounted for the highest number of crashes and fatalities: N3 near Harrismith, KwaZulu-Natal; N2 near Idutywa, Eastern Cape; N1 near Modimolle, Limpopo; R37 Mecklenburg, Limpopo; and N12 near Potchefstroom, North West.

“It is worth noting that the R71 near Mankweng has dropped from the number one spot to number nine, pointing the success of the road safety campaign in Limpopo. The R573, better known as Moloto Road, which is notorious for road crashes and fatalities, does not appear in the top 20 of hazardous routes this year,” said Mbalula.

“We are saddened to note that two of our own officers are among those who perished on the roads this year. Inspector Tefoamuel Motaung from the Free State died after he was knocked down by a minibus while on duty on the N3 near Villiers. Raymond Masango, a co-ordinator of traffic training delivery at the Road Traffic Management Corporation also died in a horrific multivehicle crash on the N3 near Harrismith,’ he said.

“I wish to convey my sincerest condolence to the families, friends and loved ones of all those who have perished on our roads.”

droppad@arena.africa

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