MD of driving skills company, driving.co.za, Rob Handfield – Jones, has described Minister S’Bu Ndebele’s proposal to reduce the national speed limit from 120km/h to 100km/h as “absurd”.
“The minister has been advised on repeated occasions that the only route to safer roads is to create more responsible road users,” Handfield – Jones said. “This can be sustainably achieved by a thorough overhaul of the licensing system and the implementation of a traffic prosecution regime which focuses on safety rather than profit. Speed control has yet to yield any reductions in fatalities since it was adopted as policy in 1997,” he commented. “On the contrary, it has driven up the fatality rate by diverting policing resources from the offences that are proven to cause fatal crashes.”
Handfield – Jones pointed to data showing that speed enforcement levels are currently at least eight times higher than they were in 1998. “Of every million fines issued by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, 989 000 are for speed. Despite this blitz of speed enforcement, fatality rates are approximately triple what they were in 1998. I say ‘approximately’, because we can only guess at the current fatality rate: the last time the government released a fatalities / 100m km figure was in 2006, at which point it was double its 1998 level,” he said. “Furthermore, we are almost in 2012, but the government has yet to release traffic statistics for 2010.”
He further accused the minister of misrepresenting Australia’s statistics. “Speed restrictions played a negligible role in reducing Australia’s fatality rate – it was one of the lowest in the world long before limited areas were restricted to 110km/h,” he said. “The minister conveniently avoids mentioning that freeways in these same areas with speed limits of 130km/h have also shown a reduction in fatalities.1 Indeed, the safest freeways in the world, the German Autobahns, are limit-free for long stretches,” he added.
Handfield-Jones said that the speed limit for buses and taxis was reduced to 100km/h at the turn of the millennium, but that five years later, the fatality rate for buses continued to climb so rapidly that it jumped 30% from 2005 to 2006 alone. “Lower speed limits have not reduced fatalities on taxis and buses and they will not do so for other vehicles,” he said. “The only result of the minister’s absurd proposal will be extra traffic fine cash for municipalities which have fallen into financial disarray through rampant corruption and mismanagement,” he concluded.