.Image: ShutterstockRoad safety is a colossal South African concern: what’s the plan, government?
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) says that it is becoming increasingly clear that the current state of road safety in South Africa is a catastrophe with grave implications for the social, economic, and health future of our country. The high number of road deaths and injuries is a national crisis that not only needs more awareness, but also immediate action.
“The Department of Transport is not living up to the promise of the National Road Safety Strategy 2016-2030. This promise is aimed at reducing road-related fatalities by 50% by 2030. Considering that road safety is an imperative, it is important to acknowledge that at the centre of it all are people. The carnage on our roads is caused by human, vehicle, and road factors,” says Andrea van Heerden, OUTA’s senior legal project manager.
According to Van Heerden, the high number of road accidents and the associated consequences have a significant impact on South African society and continue to hamper socio-economic development. “The impact is not only measured in terms of human lives lost and the resultant grief, but it also costs the country more than R45 billion in the form of the Road Accident Fund compensation to those maimed in road accidents,” she says.
OUTA strongly believes that government needs to face the realities and challenges within the transport sector. Transport is a key catalyst for economic growth and contributes about 6.5% to South Africa’s GDP. To affect the necessary change, government needs to focus on the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP), a primary government policy that directs South Africa’s economic and geographical initiatives. But, says Van Heerden, whilst the NDP offers a 2030 vision, all government plans must now start to align to it.
South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030. This is aimed at “improving Global Road Safety with a target to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 50% by 2030”.
“Instead, South Africa has exceptionally high crash rates by international standards, and furthermore frequently fails to implement best practices in road safety. Our government has an obligation to prioritise the National Road Safety Strategy goals and targets,” Van Heerden reiterates.
To increase road safety in South Africa, OUTA suggests that government should define the following areas as action areas:
Traffic law enforcement and law compliance;
Operator, vehicle and driver fitness;
Infrastructure, management and information systems; and
Communication, public education, and participation.
OUTA also believes it is important that government develops or adopts a strategy that will bring about change in behaviour within the social environment. “Changing behaviour will hopefully result in marked improvement in road user behaviour, increased awareness of road safety as well as all road users taking responsibility for road safety,” says Van Heerden.
Furthermore, OUTA says it is crucial for the country to develop, implement and monitor evidence-based road safety policies. “Such policies can only be successful when one understands the size of the problem, its characteristics, and the factors that contribute to road accidents,” Van Heerden explains. “Without such indicators, policymakers and other stakeholders cannot assess the effectiveness of policies and interventions or identify the measures that still need to be taken.”
OUTA believes that all South Africans deserve a government that has their best interests at heart. “We, the citizens of South Africa, need government to take real action when it comes to road safety,” says Van Heerden.
The organisation wants to see government to do the following:
Design a reliable framework for regular collection and reporting of road traffic crash data;
Develop a database that includes casualty figures, data on mobility, crashes, behaviours, attitudes, and enforcement to facilitate the interpretation of road safety trends;
Establish an adequately funded lead agency to tackle road safety issues;
Increase visibility of policing to address road safety concerns;
Develop a national strategy with measurable targets to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries;
Hold accountable those in various positions when such targets are not achieved;
Engage with credible stakeholders in the transport space and civil society organisations to find solutions to road safety challenges;
Refrain from relying solely on planned amendments to AARTO as a solution to road safety concerns; and
Educate the public about the importance of adhering to traffic rules and enforcement.
“OUTA firmly believes that all these measures are crucial components of a sustainable response to road safety. Anything less will continue to see this injustice to South Africans continue unabated,” Van Heerden says.
OUTA’s advocacy brief Road safety as a South African concern is here.
A soundclip with comment by OUTA Senior Legal Project Manager Andrea van Heerden is here.
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