Sunday Tribune Published: 2003/12/07
Road safety is up to YOU
Schools closed on Friday for the six-week summer holidays. Next week, many
businesses will close and thousands of families will travel to holiday
destinations. But the reality is the season of celebration brings death, injury
and sorrow - the consequence of South Africa's horrendously high road accident
rate. Logan Maistry of the provincial transport department looks at initiatives
launched to reduce the killing on our roads.
In 2000, 1207 people were killed on KwaZulu-Natal's roads, 1338 in 2001 and
1385 in 2002.
Another festive season is upon us and while many people will be celebrating,
others will be mourning the death of loved ones in crashes. People will be
asking: What is the government doing about the carnage? But surely the real
question that needs to be asked is: What can I do to make our roads safer?
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport has already begun implementing a
comprehensive data-driven plan for the festive season which will take a zero
tolerance approach to all traffic offences.
Police, traffic officials, the defence force and paramedics will be working
together to ensure high visibility during the holiday period. In addition, a
helicopter will be used as an additional measure to ensure traffic runs
All our officers have been placed on overtime and leave has been curtailed to
ensure the most officers possible are on the roads. From our most junior to the
most senior officer, we will work every day, including Christmas Day.
Road users can play their part by reporting dangerous drivers to our Mpimpa
hotline at 086 2211010.
In the first six months of 2003, KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) officers
charged motorists with 211653 traffic offences, suspended 1506 motor vehicles
for being un-roadworthy, worked 326558 hours and patrolled 1716659km.
This is besides work performed by such other traffic agencies as Durban Metro
Police and local authority traffic departments.
Consequently, nobody can claim the government is doing nothing about road
But what this clearly illustrates is that the responsibility for safety on
our roads belongs to everyone. Elite police services, like Britain's Scotland
Yard, confirm that nearly 90 percent of their success is related to support
received from communities. When we, as ordinary citizens, take more
responsibility for our own safety and our actions, we will succeed in reducing
Road safety is an emotive subject, and it seems everybody is an expert.
If traffic officers hide, drive unmarked cars or have hidden cameras, they
If they are on the roads patrolling or conducting enforcement exercises, they
are still criticised.
Everybody seems to have his own solution to preventing the carnage.
Since 1996, the MEC for Transport, S'bu Ndebele, has created innovative ideas
for saving lives by bringing communities on board.
Despite budgetary constraints, we have actively pursued several key
objectives and although the number of road deaths is still unacceptable, the
responsibility is not only with the government.
The result of the department's initiatives have been Project Victoria,
Siyabakhumbula and Asiphephe - from which our national Arrive Alive programme
Community road safety councils have been established throughout the province,
comprising amakhosi, religious leaders, educationists, the farming community and
many others. Part of Ndebele's strategy was the recognition that public
awareness and. enforcement are two sides of the same coin.
We have looked: critically at the various components of our road safety
strategy, to see where we could be underperforming.
This consists of public awareness campaigns, advertisements, the
establishment of community road safety councils and making everyone understand
that road safety is everybody's responsibility We are determined to ensure a
continued buy-in by all sectors of the community such as the youth, business,
the taxi industry the freight industry the religious community and those who
have experienced the trauma of losing loved ones.
Since 1994, we have striven to make good roads not only an exclusive
privilege of urban dwellers but continue to construct thousands of rural
roads. We have embarked on a hazardous location elimination programme which is
Each year we employ traffic officers and train them to deal with a broad
spectrum of offences and strategies, such as eliminating unroadworthy vehicles
and overloading, and increased visibility.
We have introduced booze buses, as well as a centralised traffic camera
office which processes thousands of fines every month. We have acquired state
of the art speed and alcohol measuring devices. We have also pioneered
roadside courts and refined the processes there to ensure optimum efficiency
Despite these interventions, it seems we are still not winning the battle.
According to national Minister of Transport, Dullah Omar, in most cases
crashes are caused by people -people who fail to keep their vehicles in good
order; people who drive too fast, or drive under the influence; people who cross
roads incorrectly; people who fail to maintain adequate following distances,
also employers who make unrealistic demands on their drivers.
When we see others break the law, the first response is often: The government
should do something about that. But what if the tables were turned? What if you
were the driver the government should do something about? How, for example,
could the government stop you from speeding, or drinking and driving?
Of course, there are options. We could conceive of a solution whereby all
vehicles were mechanically governed to travel at a maximum speed of, say,
120km/h. But that would be considered draconian.
Alternatively we could ban alcohol. But that would be an overreaction.
We could post government observers in every vehicle to check on its speed -
but that would be hopelessly impractical.
The point is that road safety is, in every sense, at the mercy of the
decisions of each and every individual road user.
Roads will become safer when drivers decide to drive safely when passengers
stand up for their rights, when vehicle owners maintain their vehicles properly
and when pedestrians play their part.
We cannot block every road, or search every vehicle. We cannot communicate in
every publication and in every language 24 hours a day.
We need to create a culture of personal responsibility because the
responsibility for safe road usage lies with ALL road users - and not entirely
with the government.
Road Safety needs to become a community issue. Hence, our inter-faith road
safety programme, and other such initiatives. Our inter-faith road safety
programme encourages religious leaders to preach sermons on road safety in
churches, temples and mosques.
Mass gatherings have already been held in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith
and Empangeni and have proved highly successful. We are making every possible
effort to change fee behaviour of all road users.
Nobody can disagree that the road behaviour of some South Africans is
dangerous, inconsiderate, irresponsible - even criminal.
But most of us would like this situation to change, and we are working
towards that change with all fee resources we can muster.
Let every South African commit to promote road safety and save lives this