Staying safe on the roads this Christmas


Last year, 1 527 people died on our roads during the festive season (from 1 December 2017 to 9 January 2018).  Countless more were maimed, injured or permanently disabled.  Road traffic crashes kill nearly 1.3 million people across the world every year, and injure, or disable, as many as 50 million more. They are the leading cause of death among young people, aged 10-24 years.

But of course, we’ve heard this all before.  For many of us, these are just statistics that are part of South African life.  The real tragedy, of course, is that behind the numbers are new-born babies who are now without parents; young people with broken dreams of a bright future; and families left behind with no source of income.  The statistics demand urgent action, and in this case every individual has the opportunity to play a part.

Road safety requires a change of attitude.  We may refer to them as “car accidents”, but road deaths don’t happen by accident. During the 2017/18 festive period, the following were amongst the most common causes of crashes:

  • Driving too fast in the circumstances, especially during bad weather and at night;
  • Dangerous, reckless and/or inconsiderate driving, particularly barrier line infringements and overtaking.  More than 70% of the fatal crashes involved head-on collisions caused by dangerous overtaking;
  • Abuse of alcohol by drivers and pedestrians;
  • Fatigue resulting in falling asleep at the wheel;
  • Vehicle roadworthiness, particularly tyre failure and defective brakes.

In addition, the failure to wear a seatbelt has been found to be a major contributor to fatalities or serious injuries. Currently only about 60% of front seat drivers/passengers in South Africa wear a seat belt, and only 3% of rear-seat passengers.  Studies show that if this percentage could be increased to 80%, there would automatically be a 30% reduction in road fatalities.

It is also worth remembering this festive season that traffic officials no longer take driving transgressions lightly.  During last years’ festive season, more than 924 000 vehicles and drivers were checked, 46,029  fines were issued for speeding, 15,538 drivers were fined for driving without a licence, 14,174 drivers were fined for driving unlicensed vehicles, 13 554 were fined for driving without fastening seatbelts and 5 388 drivers were fined for overloading their vehicles.  More than 105 000 drivers were tested for alcohol and 2 247 drivers were arrested for having alcohol blood content above the legal limit.

Driving transgressions can result in hefty fines, imprisonment without the option of a fine as well as suspension/cancellation of driving licences.  In serious cases of fatal injury, drivers can face a conviction for culpable homicide and face lengthy jail time.  

So we need to ask ourselves, is arriving at our holiday destination an hour or two earlier really worth these risks!  Follow these safety tips and ensure that you and your family have a happy and safe festive season:

  • Do a thorough roadworthy and safety check of your vehicle before you leave;
  • Keep to the speed limit and reduce your speed in bad driving conditions;
  • Make sure everyone in the car wears a seatbelt;
  • Rest regularly and, where possible, share the driving;
  • Only overtake when it is completely safe to do so;
  • At the risk of stating the obvious, don’t drive drunk!

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Tarn Hodson - BA (Rhodes), LLB(UCT)

Tarn Hodson

BA (Rhodes), LLB(UCT)

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