Shift in attitudes necessary for South Africa to reach road safety goals

South Africa will never achieve its target to reduce road traffic casualties by 50% in the next decade if road users don’t start taking road rules seriously.

So says Auto & General’s spokesperson Angelo Haggiyannes who says that the disregard of road traffic rules, nonchalance towards car maintenance and the equally blasé attitude to drinking and driving amongst many South African drivers is concerning.

After a series of horrendous crashes on South African roads led the Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele to slate August 2011 as a ‘horrifying month for road crashes and deaths’, the carnage continues with shocking stories of people losing their lives on the road thanks in part to poor driver discipline and negligence.

On the 15th of September a family of four, including a one year old baby and a three year old toddler, were killed in a widely-publicised accident in Pretoria, and nine school children died in an accident near Pietermaritzburg. In the Pretoria accident, none of the vehicle occupants were wearing a seatbelt. In the Pietermaritzburg crash, the children were travelling unstrapped on the back of a bakkie.

Haggiyannes says that drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike should have the self-discipline to obey the rules of the road and behave responsibly.

“When you drive without buckling-up because nobody’s watching, skip stop streets because there are no other vehicles in the near vicinity, and speed because the road you’re on is quiet, you are only fooling yourself. Negligence, speeding and alcohol are factors in the majority of road accidents, regardless of whether or not anyone is watching.”

With intensified efforts to makes SA’s roads safer, there are more eyes on motorists than ever, and thousands are being brought to book for poor road behaviour.

According to information on www.arrivealive.co.za, more than 18 000 drunk drivers have been arrested and some 50 000 unroadworthy vehicles have been removed from the roads since the announcement of the new National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP) by Minister Ndebele on 10 September 2010.

Between the 1st of October 2010 and 31 August 2011, 12,984,120 vehicles and drivers were stopped and checked, and over 5.5 million fines have been issued for various offences. In August 2011, which will be notoriously remembered for the 76 lives lost in eight crashes involving public transport vehicles, 769 people were arrested for drunk driving, 64 were arrested for overloading passengers or goods, and 88 were arrested for negligent or reckless driving.

Haggiyannes welcomes the increase in law enforcement and commends the many successes of the authorities in identifying and prosecuting lawless drivers but he says the fact that there are so many wrongdoers on the roads in the first place points to a desperate need for a nationally-cohesive approach to bring about change in the behaviour of road users.

“Increased enforcement and visibility of traffic authorities, as well as stiffer penalties for breaches, will help persuade more conscientious driving. However, a shift in attitude is needed. People must take to heart the responsibility they have to themselves, their passengers and other road users to obey the rules of the road, including keeping their vehicles in acceptable running condition and not overloading them. The impetus for sticking to the rules should be to ensure safety, not to avoid being caught breaking them,” he says.

Haggiyannes encourages road users to take their role in making South African roads less dangerous more seriously.

“The stories of the loss of lives experienced in the past few months are heartbreaking. Every road user has a part to play in helping to bring the number of crashes and deaths down. By being conscious and accountable for the actions you take when you get into a car, from wearing a seatbelt and encouraging your passengers to do the same, to remaining within the speed limit, keeping your car in a roadworthy condition and leaving your cellphone alone, you become part of the solution.”

[View the Arrive Alive website for more info on the December carnage on South African roads as more than 1023 lives have been lost on the roads since 1 December 2011!]

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