National Department of Transport on Road to Safety 2001-2005 Strategy: briefing

NCOP Public Services

06 November 2001
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Meeting report

PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE

PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
07 NOVEMBER 2001
NATIONAL DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT ON ROAD TO SAFETY 2001-2005 STRATEGY: BRIEFING

Acting chairperson
: Ms B Thompson

Documents handed out:
Road to Safety 2001-2005 Strategy

SUMMARY
The Road to Safety 2001-2005 programme is to be launched by the Minister of Transport on the 20 November 2001 in Johannesburg. The Department of Transport made it clear to the Committee that the programme does not take over from the Arrive Alive Campaign, instead it is there to strengthen it. The Department emphasised the importance of the involvement of the community in road safety, especially pedestrian safety in roads. Certain projects have already been put in place to make the programme a success.

MINUTES
Department of Transport
Mr Ashraf Ismail (Department) said that the Road to Safety programme is geared to attack the underlying causes of South Africa's road safety problems. It takes responsibility for key issues of system and structural reform, mobilising fiscal resources and building partnerships with the private sector, NGOs and communities. Arrive Alive can therefore concentrate all its efforts on year-round, 7 days a week, 24 hours per day enforcement and provincial/local traffic management coordination.

The Road to Safety becomes Arrive Alive's parent and Arrive Alive becomes the Road to Safety's operational arm. The Arrive Alive campaign has given the Road to Safety a high profile amongst the public. The logo and the icon of Arrive Alive is not going to be tempered with. The Arrive Alive campaign will continue and the Road to Safety is merely going to strengthen the elements that will make Arrive Alive much stronger.

Mr Adrian Crewe from the Department added that a programme has been carried out in the last two years in the Western Cape winelands at seven different sites. This multi-disciplinary programme is carried out by the Department and the community. The community showed the Department most of the dangerous spots for pedestrians around the area so that pedestrian crossings could be erected. Six to seven programs were put in the area and that has proven to be a success. Accidents were reduced by 68% and fatalities by 92% in a period of one year.

DISCUSSION
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC) complained that the document was a monster to him because it is full of acronyms that are not explained in full.

Mr Ismail replied that the other document he handed out addresses all the issue of acronyms and they are explained in full. It was not possible for them to include all the acronyms in full in his presentation document otherwise it would have been twice as long as it is now.

Ms J Kgoali (ANC) stated that the Committee should be recognised as a fully-fledged Committee of a particular House, that is the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). If arrangements were made by the Portfolio Committee in the National Assembly, the Select Committee has its own right as a committee to make arrangements to go to the Western Cape winelands to see the programs if it so desires. Mr Crewe apologised and promised not to repeat the same mistake in future.

Ms Kgoali said her main concern is that in some areas of Gauteng one hardly sees metro police. For instance in Johannesburg every street has metro police but in some areas in Pretoria it is a different case. How effective is the coordination of road safety given this scenario.

Mr Ismail replied that there are traffic coordinating councils in each province. If for instance in a particular jurisdictional area one town has less traffic officers than the bigger ones, they combine their resources in order to engage in joint operations thus utilising each other's resources.

Mr Mkhaliphi commented that it is good to hear that the Department is addressing the problem of pedestrians. But he was concerned about situations where a pedestrian jumps into a car and gets killed but later the person who stands accused is the driver. He said this should be looked at very seriously. He added that it is very important to empower pedestrians about road safety and some cases should be looked at the other way round.

Mr Ismail agreed that the problem of pedestrians is difficult, although sometimes high impact, short term, and law enforcement exercises can be done. He cited the example of increased law enforcement for pedestrians on the N2 highway in Cape Town two and a half years ago. The local traffic Department together with the SAPS decided to patrol the freeway to ensure that there are no pedestrians. It worked well for a few days but on the fourth day a pedestrian who was crossing the freeway spotted a patrol vehicle chasing him, the pedestrian ran onto the face of oncoming traffic and he was killed on the spot. This is an example of a well-intentioned project having undesired consequences and having to be stopped immediately.

Mr Crewe added that the long-term solution to this problem is education. In the interim, law enforcement could be employed, but needs to be coupled with communication via print and electronic media. For pedestrian safety to be sustainable the community has to own the programs that are aimed at pedestrian safety. That is why the Department has emphasised the importance of the road safety forums. For instance using schools and community centers as educational resources for local people.

The Chairperson asked whether the road safety forums would result in the Department abolishing the transport forums. The answer was no.

Mr Mkhaliphi said he was concerned that when people pay traffic fines they do not get receipts in return. Sometimes after a person has paid a warrant of arrest is mistakenly served on them and they have no proof of payment.

Mr Ismail said he does not have any information on this point but promised to go and find out what the situation is in this regard, and then report back to Parliament.

The Chairperson added that Mkhaliphi's point proves beyond doubt that the Committee would have loved to take part in drafting the document. The Committee could have raised many issues.

Mr M Ralane (ANC) said that since most of the violations happen at night, would it be possible for the Department to consider employing traffic policemen who would be prepared to work at night or maybe traffic officers could work in shifts?

Mr Ismail agreed that most of the serious accidents take place after eight o'clock at night. The issue of shift work is definitely of utmost importance. Many of the biggest cities have already implemented the structures where the 24-hour clock will be divided into three eight-hour shifts to address this in a smart manner. But the smaller towns do not have the capacity to accommodate three shifts.

Mr Ralane's second question was on the level of law enforcement. Is it not possible to gather intelligence data to enable the Department to concretise some of the violations? For instance could the Department not use plain clothed traffic officers to track down traffic offenders for purposes of collecting data for prosecution?

Mr Ismail agreed that intelligence data is the key to any road traffic management system in any country. Without intelligence data the same problem would occur of chief traffic officers taking it upon themselves to lay speed-trapping devices on roads purely to generate revenue. The Department has to change that perception, traffic officers should know that the priority of the Department lies in dealing with serious accidents caused by speeding. There is no point in laying speed traps on roads that normally have no accidents, but rather where accidents normally occur.

Mr Ismail thought the question of plain clothing traffic officers was problematic because the whole issue of plain clothing traffic and police officers in roadblocks was outlawed sometime ago. This system was outlawed because car hijackers took advantage of the blue light to hijack and rob people.

Mr Ralane said the Arrive Alive programme is only seen visibly during the festive season, while it is meant to be a daily programme.

Mr Ismail replied that this is a perception created particularly by the media. The media has a tendency to only look at road traffic safety during the peak periods of December, January and the Easter weekends. They report every accident that occurs this time. The media run out of news during December and January while Parliament is closed. They do not report the progress made by the Department during the course of the year.

He did not want to make an excuse hence he believes the Department should be proactive with respect to their public relations exercise. They need to have special media activities that address road safety issues.

An ANC member suggested that the community road safety forums must involve local authorities because these forums should be institutionalised structures.

Mr Ismail agreed that the community based road safety forums should fall within the ambit of local authorities, which would be a step in the right direction.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) asked the Department whether they have pioneer programs in these projects. Because projects like these need research before hand.

Mr Ismail said that, without preempting the speech being made by the Minister on the 20 November, he was going to highlight six or seven projects. These include the pedestrian management plan, the Shovakalula bicycle project and a number of projects that the Minister will be giving feedback on.

Mr Maloyi again asked what is the relationship between the Department and radio stations because he believed they are skilled in exposing the corruption of people in the communities.

Mr Ismail agreed that there is a need to work with community radio stations, although he believed that is a provincial competence. Because at the end of the day it is a community based exercise so it has to go down to the local authorities. However, as a national Department they can provide them with material support to make the programme a success.

Mr N Raju (DP) said a lot of these problems could be stopped or lessened if there is proper and efficient law enforcement. He agreed that education is the key in road safety, for instance children should be told how to observe road signs. But law enforcement should remain a priority for the Department.

Mr Ismail said the first prize in South Africa would be to come to a stage where everybody would look at voluntary compliance with road safety signs and regulations, at is happening in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Raju suggested that whistle blowing could also work whenever one sees a taxi driver or a person violating road safety signs. Especially taxi drivers should stop the total defiance of road signs and regulations.

Mr Ismail responded that the Department has a whistle blowing facility in the form of a toll free number that people can use in the event a person is violating traffic rules.

Mr Maloyi wanted to know in terms of establishing all the projects whether there is a time frame that will indicate when the project will start and when are they going to be evaluated and so on. This will help the committee in playing its oversight role.

Mr Ismail replied that the document that he gave to the committee contains all the time frames required. Mr Crewe added that because this is a strategic document they had to separate the strategic document from the action plan. Otherwise all the details with regard to time frames will be given on the 20 November when the Minister launches the project.

Mr M Mokoena (ANC) commented that he would be happy if the Department will prioritise things that are really meant to be a priority. For example prioritising the reduction in the number of negligent drivers rather than putting speed traps for the purpose of arresting people.

The meeting was adjourned

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