3 minute read
22 Apr 2015
1:12 pm

Cost of Easter road deaths calls for new approach

This Easter was SA’s worst recorded death toll for an Easter period. The number looks set to rise to 400 once all fatalities have been accounted for, after an obligatory 30-day period.

Picture: Thinkstock

The number looks set to rise to 400 once all fatalities have been accounted for, after an obligatory 30-day period.

While the annual cost of road accidents to the economy is R309bn, the solution to the problem may lie in the money.

Dire spikes such as this swell the already shocking SA road safety barometer of 43 deaths per 100 000 people and 14 000 official deaths per year – statistics from the World Bank and the Department of Transport respectively.

The department of Transport’s post Easter analysis fingers driver and pedestrian drinking, disregard for the rules, driver fatigue and un-roadworthy vehicles as the main causes. Not included in the list is the wearing of seatbelts, texting and talking while driving.

The common thread in all of the causes is driver behaviour and attitude, begging the question, will more policing get to the root cause of this scourge?

Solutions to the problem include Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters’ idea of a new system that will see traffic officials referring drivers for re-tests in an attempt to remove those with illegally obtained licenses. The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has called for harsher punishment for reckless drivers.

South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) is calling for more random alcohol testing and ‘Drunk Driving Courts’ aimed at convicting offenders within one month of the incident.

The QuadPara Association of South Africa’s (QASA) high profile Buckle Up campaign slogan, “Don’t Text And Buckle-Up – We Don’t Want New Members”, paradoxically sums up the fact that if you don’t wear your seatbelt or you are texting you are in the highest risk category for a crash, higher than drinking and driving, according to QASA CEO, Ari Seirlis.

“What concerns us is that we are told how many people are killed, but are never told how many people are left disabled, or critically injured [after the 30 day period] or suffer loss of limbs and they don’t’ count the people whose lives are changed forever – that figure could be up to five times more,” says Seirlis.

“We keep churning out massive amounts of people with disabilities. And in most cases they struggle to get work.”

Seirlis asserts that the only way to stop the carnage is to correct human behaviour. One of the ways to achieve this, he maintains, is to incentivise responsible driving.

Minister Peters said in her roundup of the Easter bloodbath, “These carnages and unwarranted misery brought about by irresponsible and lackadaisical behaviour can and should be avoided. The quality of our drivers leaves much to be desired and to that extent we will ensure that driver training is upskilled and is of good standard.”

Incentivised road safety is starting to see results amongst companies who offer their members the opportunity to analyse their driving habits and enjoy the benefits of lower insurance premiums as an incentive.

Tracker’s Ian Adendorff, agrees. “So much is done by traffic authorities, yet we still don’t seem to be getting anywhere. The problem is that each driver needs to take responsibility for his behaviour at all times, not just over busy holidays. Technology is able to do this all year round.“

“We have seen our member driver incidents reduced by 36% and vehicle efficiency improved by 35%, with less maintenance as the vehicle is being driven better”, says Adendorff.

All South Africans eventually feel the pinch from road traffic accidents as the fuel levy goes up while the Road Accident Fund buckles under the pressure. Medical aid premiums rise as hospital claims and health costs skyrocket. The silent damage is unquantifiable, but just as severe. Is it not time to incentivise road safety?