Road Safety – Drinking and Driving Remains a Major Concern for Road Safety Efforts
Road safety has become a global issue that ranks as one of the most pressing matters facing society today. The United Nations’ Global Road Safety Strategy, which was released early 2019, estimated that globally, nearly 1.3 million lives are lost annually as a result of road traffic collisions, resulting in more than 3 000 deaths each day. It is further estimated that between twenty (20) and fifty (50) million people sustain non-fatal injuries from road collisions, and these injuries are an important cause of disability worldwide.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), South Africa recorded 12 921 fatalities from 10 564 fatal crashes in the period from January to December 2018, with the most impacted road users being pedestrians and passengers. One hundred and twenty (120) major crashes were reported with eight hundred and two deaths (802) and one thousand one hundred and seventy (1 170) people sustaining serious injuries as a result of the major road crashes. This has dire consequences on the economy of the country as it results in an increased burden on the social security and welfare system of a country, with an ever-increasing loss of skills and rising costs to the economy.
Road safety is one of the South African Insurance Association’s (SAIA) key focus areas, with prominence in its 2019 to 2021 strategy. The association is concerned about the number of fatalities on South African roads, and the cost to the economy from these road traffic crashes. The cost of road traffic crashes in 2015 was estimated to be R142bn, representing a significant 3.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Human casualty costs accounted for 69.3% of the total crash costs, while vehicle repair costs accounted for R21.2bn (14.9%) and incident costs accounting for 15.8%. This presents a significant challenge in the efforts to eradicate poverty and to provide affordable and sustainable insurance to South African motorists.
In 2015, the RTMC reported that the South African road fatality rate was 23.53 per 100 000 population. Comparing this with the 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) Global status report on road safety, which placed the global average of road fatalities at 17.4 per 100 000, and the average for middle-income countries at 18.4 fatalities per 100 000 population, South Africa still had a considerably high road fatality rate compared with other countries in the same economic category with a middle-income economy. The RTMC Road Traffic Report for January to December 2018 point to a slight decrease of 1.7% in human factors being the contributory element in fatal crashes between 2017 and 2018. In 2017, 91% of fatal crashes were attributed to human factors compared with 89.3% in 2018.
A change in behaviour can only be achieved by ensuring that road users are educated and aware of road safety, consistently encouraged and reminded to behave appropriately and effectively discouraged from transgressing laws through enforcement, including the need to eliminate corruption. Other than changing the driving behaviour of motorists, critical is to increase the Government’s effectiveness in removing unroadworthy vehicles and unlicensed drivers from South African roads and implementation of consistent development and maintenance of road infrastructure programmes.
The National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) states that over two thirds of road crashes are violations of traffic laws, emphasising a need to intensify law enforcement. This was further supported by the legislation of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), and the National Road Traffic Law Enforcement Code (NRTLEC). The two are aimed at reinforcing the public’s adherence to road safety. The inclusion of road safety targets in the Sustainably Development Goals (SDGs) also shows commitment at a global level to address this systemic risk.
In recognition of the efforts made by the Department of Transport (DoT) and its various agencies towards road safety, SAIA, in collaboration with several stakeholders launched the Business for Road Safety (BRS) forum in September 2019. The forum’s objective is to enable South African businesses to have a leading role in finding sustainable solutions aimed at reducing the number of road crashes and fatalities. In addition, it seeks to support the efforts of the South African government, including the DoT in addressing road safety issues.
As we are nearing a high traffic season, precautionary measures need to be taken to decrease the number of road crashes. This will entail creating impactful, educative and informative public campaigns that support the enforcement of legislative measures to increase the awareness of road risks and of the penalties associated with breaking the law. For instance, a need to ensure that motorists have an intrinsic understanding of what is meant by “alcohol blood concentration limit.” In South Africa, the legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1,000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml, a fact that should be in every motorist's mind and memory. In addition, more effort must be made to ensure that the general public understands the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), and how the demerit point system will work ahead of its implementation date which is forecasted for mid-2020.
A significant reduction in road crashes will have a profoundly positive impact on the economy of South Africa, a reduced burden on the social security and welfare system, as well as reduced fatalities. This will also considerably improve the affordability of motor insurance and therefore the sustainability of continuing to insure motor cars by the non-life insurance industry. Every individual behind a steering-wheel is in control of his or hers own driving behaviour and must act responsible.
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