Road Safety Situation in SA: briefing by Automobile Association (AA); SA Bus Operators Association (SABOA); SA National Taxi Cou

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19 February 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

19 February 2003

Documents handed out:
AA perspective: Road Safety Situation in South Africa
SABOA Comments on Road Traffic Accidents; Relation to The Road To Safety Strategy and Arrive Alive (Appendix)
SANTACO submission (document will be available here shortly)

The Committee was briefed by the Automobile Association on their concerns about the high fatality rate on the roads. They argued that law enforcement must be visible, to attempt to break the general pattern of lawlessness in South Africa. The South African Bus Operators Association suggested that excessive speed was a major factor in the safety record as well as drunk driving and even driver incompetence. The South African National Taxi Council was concerned whether new taxi vehicles were to be encouraged or not. Statistics were available to show that the addition of two wheels to the back of a vehicle, improved safety by 35%. They pleaded for recapitalisation to be speeded up as new vehicles were needed. They also requested government assistance for the transformation process.

The Chairperson, Mr J Cronin (ANC) noted the public concern about the high fatality rate on the roads over the festive season, and hoped that today's submissions would shed some light on the subject.

Automobile Association submission
Ms P Kruger and Mr G Ronald made the presentation on behalf of the Automobile Association (AA). Mr Ronald expressed his concern that 28% of road collisions involved bakkies and 4x4 vehicles. In that context the Road Traffic Act still allowed the carriage of passengers in the back of a bakkie, as long as those passengers were under employment. He felt this was wrong and should be changed.

He then drew attention to a number of important points:
-The public perceives "Arrive Alive" as a failure. However, the AA considered the name "Arrive Alive" as a name better understood by the public and its future use was supported, rather than "Road To Safety". The Road Traffic Safety Board was supported by the AA, but communication was a problem and no meetings had been held recently.
-Statistical data was poor and 1998 is the latest year for which adequate data is available for a whole year.
-Law enforcement was crucial. International experience had shown that it must be strict and should start with small things first. He suggested that enforcement of the three year old legislation on rear seat belt usage and child seating, would make good starting points.
-Law enforcement must be visible, to attempt to break the general pattern of lawlessness in South Africa.
-Corruption and law enforcement go hand in hand. Fraudulent Roadworthy Certification and fraudulent drivers licences were still a problem. Legislation should be introduced to allow the person offering a bribe to be charged as well as the official accepting the bribe. This should go together with a system of minimum fines in these cases.
-There was chaos at the moment with the credit card drivers licences. The final cutoff date coincided with the reissue of the first licences issued five years ago. A 60 day extension should be allowed to reduce overcrowding. Another problem had arisen with expatriate South Africans, who had to return to South Africa to renew their documentation. They often could not allow their SA licences to lapse, as their overseas licences were issued on the basis of a valid South African licence. South African embassies and consulates should thus be given the right to issue drivers licences.

Mr Ronald emphasised that the AA considered visible law enforcement together with public road safety awareness as crucial and should begin with seat belt legislation enforcement.

Mr J Slabbert (IFP) asked for AA comment on the question of tinted windows. He suggested that Arrive Alive was a dream and that proper law enforcement was better. He thought that driver reporting of incidents was a judicial problem. How many people would be prepared (or able) to go back to a court in Laingsburg months after reporting an incident there?

Mr Ronald stated that window tinting laws still applied and that vehicles with excessively dark windows should not pass roadworthy checks.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) asked what was meant by visible law enforcement and asked that the fifteen Arrive Alive centres in Gauteng be made permanent. He asked how road users could be made to wake up, and also queried the use of the AA logo displayed by many tow truck operators. He asked about progress on the problems in the towing industry.

Mr Ronald responded to the question on visible law enforcement, pointing out that the public see hidden traffic cameras only as revenue generating machines. If used at all they should rather be made highly visible and painted in a bright colour to act as visible law enforcement. He suggested that the estimate of only 6 000 traffic officers in SA at present was probably incorrect, as not all officers were registered due to administrative inefficiency. However the 6.2 million vehicles in SA should require one in 100 traffic officers, that is, 62 000 officers. He agreed that the Arrive Alive centres had worked well and supported their use.

Ms Kruger stated that the AA was working on control in the tow truck industry, but it was a challenge. Legislation was in the pipeline. The AA would only issue its certification to properly registered vehicles and to companies who were members of the SA Towing and Recovery Association. She agreed that problems were still being experienced particularly as regards exploitation of the public. She mentioned a R4000 fee for a 3 km tow in. The AA welcomed any discrepancy reports as long as the vehicles registration number or its AA logo number could be quoted for tracing.

Mr S Farrow (DP) asked how the problem of non-roadworthy vehicles was to be combated and asked what the situation was with credit card licences in the previous homelands. He supported better law enforcement on the road.

Mr Ronald said that the deadline for credit card drivers licences in the old homelands had been extended to September 2003.

Ms P De Lille (PAC) was shocked that the Road Safety Board had not met since June 2001, and suggested that the efforts to reduce smoking should rather have been directed at drunken drivers, where a worse problem existed. She asked that a better system be put in place to report dangerous drivers.

Mr Ronald agreed that alcohol was a major problem. Medical Research Council, CSIR and UNISA research into unnatural deaths using mortuary statistics, showed that 40% of road fatalities were pedestrians, and of these 65% were over the 0.05 alcohol limit. Similarly of driver fatalities 53% were over the alcohol limit. He also agreed that the correlation of fatalities versus those prosecuted was very low.

A Member supported better law enforcement and asked whether the state of the roads affected safety.

As regards the state of roads, reports to the AA indicated that most "N" routes were in reasonable condition, however the "M" and "R" routes were generally in poor condition. This was particularly apparent in rural areas.

The correlation of road accidents versus unroadworthy vehicles was not available using the present statistics available.

He noted that a national call centre was under development at present.

A Member asked how to ensure that the safety forum meets regularly and suggested the problem should be resolved directly with the Department of Transport.

A Member condemned the practice of motorists flashing their lights ahead of speed traps, and also asked that action be taken against garages near roadworthy centres, which hired out good tyres and so forth to enable roadworthiness tests to be passed. After the tests the old tyres would be replaced on the vehicle.

Mr Ronald agreed that there was corruption with the issuing of certificates of roadworthiness. However, a Business against Crime initiative was being used to develop a model. Loveday Street in Johannesburg could be used as an example where the possibility of corruption was minimised by the system used.

SA Bus Operators Association (SABOA) submission
Mr Cronje presented the SABOA submission and emphasised the following points:

-For the first time a coordinated strategy for safety was in place, but it takes time for a strategy to actually start working.
-Most of SABOA's members were commuter operators with a good safety record.
-The Road to Safety Strategy showed that driver factors were the major contributor to accidents (80% - 90%), while vehicle factors contributed in 10% - 30% of cases. Road environment was a factor in only 5% - 15% of crashes.
-Excessive speed was a major factor in the safety record as well as drunk driving.
-The long distance freight operations had problems with driver fatigue.
-Driver incompetence was a problem.
-The pedestrian situation needed to be considered.
-Rural roads were a problem with KZN roads being the worst. This resulted in extra expense for buses operating on these roads.
-The lack of accurate and reliable statistics was a problem.
-The Road Transport Management Corporation (RTMC) was a positive move.
-There was not enough law enforcement.

South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) submission
The SANTACO submission was not immediately available to the Committee. SANTACO was represented by Mr B Nagel, Mr R Mutsi, Mr N Secele and Mr T Mouphe.

SANTACO supports the Road to Safety concept, as 10 000 fatalities a year was unacceptable carnage. There was too much talk and not enough action. SANTACO believed in Arrive Alive, as the worst problem was with drivers' mindsets.

A major question for SANTACO was the question of whether new taxi vehicles were to be encouraged or not. Statistics were available to show that the addition of two wheels to the back of a vehicle, improved safety by 35%. Should all taxis then be eighteen to thirty five seaters? At present taxis are only allowed up to sixteen seats and these would be phased out between 2004 and 2006. Owners were in a position of not wanting to buy replacement vehicles as they would be useless soon, and not being able to start operating larger vehicles as they were not yet accepted as legal taxis. The result at present was older minicabs in poor condition. There was much uncertainty in the industry.

SANTACO made a plea to speed up recapitalisation as new vehicles were needed. There was a lack of transformation assistance. They also felt that as an organisation they needed government assistance to start moving. They were a new group and needed help to start training and educating drivers as they did not have the funds themselves.

They mentioned excessive speed as a major cause of accidents especially with overtaking taxis and tyre bursts. Provincial roads were a problem. Traffic cops only saw taxis, and the traffic officer at the edge of a township was seen as being there to make money either for the government or for himself.

SANTACO recognized that the taxi industry was wanting in a number of areas:
-Driver behaviour
-Customer care
-Education on road safety
-Proper training. A one day course and a safety certificate were not much use in six months time.
-Recognition of SANTACO was required, with statutory powers to enforce discipline
-A call centre was required to take reports from the public

-SANTACO wanted to be involved in the improvements.

Ms De Lille asked how Provinces can be forced to recapitalise and asked what can be done about 4x4's. She also asked how drinking and driving should be eliminated.

SANTACO suggested that the National Government was holding up recapitalisation as it involved coordination between four Departments: Transport, Trade and Industry, Finance, Minerals and Energy Affairs. Hopefully the problem would be resolved this year. In the interim, however, Provinces must start issuing eighteen seater permits. They noted that 4x4's are not used as taxis.

SANTACO felt that they were succeeding in solving the drunken drivers problem with taxis, but the reckless driving mindset still needed to be addressed.

Ms T Shilubana (ANC) pointed out that buses in rural areas were very dilapidated and taxi and bus drivers needed to improve.

SABOA pointed out that they also had rural members and could thus comment on rural issues.

The bus industry promotes safety and operated to a code of conduct which includes drivers licences (PRDP) and vehicle certificates of fitness. Six monthly vehicle fitness tests were encouraged and passenger insurance was required. The Transport Training Authority had begun its first driver training courses.

They noted that it was correct but misleading to say that buses could be up to 27 years old. The average age of buses was about twelve years. However legislation allows only a fifteen year life, at which point, with a complete rebuild to latest standards, an additional twelve years could be granted.

Mr Slabbert said he liked listening to SANTACO but considered that taxi recapitalisation would just make the problem bigger. He suggested that in his area taxis were invisible to the traffic police.

Recapitalisation would solve the safety problem and also be more comfortable for taxi passengers.

Mr Cronin said that recapitalisation was required, but the concern at present is around the particular model to be adopted and whether it is affordable or not.

SANTACO said that EMS and the delay around recapitalisation could not be blamed entirely on the taxi industry, the blame lies with government as the staff at DTI and Transport have all changed recently.

Mr Farrow (DP) commented on the anomaly of subsidised buses and non-subsidised taxis competing in the same market. He agreed that driver training was important. He also asked if SANTACO was not itself the cause of the problem regarding statistics.

SANTACO felt that previous safety research had always missed the target. SANTACO can solve the problem but it needs assistance.

A Member asked whether SANTACO had a way of ensuring its members' vehicles were roadworthy.

Mr Schneemann asked what SANTACO is doing regarding roadworthy checks and driver training.

SANTACO noted that they had supported government for the 100 km/hr speed limit on taxis.
As regards driver education, SANTACO had only been formed in 2000, as a national body with provincial associations and local taxi rank membership. They have started with ushering passengers at ranks, and begun inspections on documentation and public liability insurance. It was a slow process, but they were getting there. They considered that it was the overall responsibility of government to supply safe and affordable public transport.

A Member said that SANTACO was not known and must publicise itself.

SANTACO noted that they also needed assistance before they would be in a position to make themselves known.

Mr Cronin concluded that the Committee was responding to the public concern about the high road accident rate and suggested that the subject was heading for a debate in the National Assembly. He felt that the safety policies were correct, but that some of the implementation issues, for instance, enforcement and recapitalisation, were in no-mans land.

The meeting was adjourned.


19 FEBRUARY 2003


1. Introduction

Great strides have been made in developing and focusing strategies on addressing South Africa's appalling road safety record. It is at last receiving the urgent attention of government at the highest level and also involves the public through information sharing and awareness campaigns.

For the first time the country has a coordinated strategy in The Road to Safety 2001 - 2005 (See diagram on page 7). This is evident when studying the framework for the management of the strategy as well as the strategic map (See diagram on page 8) that combines the main contributors to road traffic accidents and underpins it with standards, rules, enforcement actions and institutional reform.

Safety is generally one of the most talked about topics in transport in South Africa. It involves safety of operations, design standards, maintenance standards, driver behaviour etc. Public transport safety also involves other dimensions such as intermodal rivalry, commuter safety on public transport systems, safety of access to public transport at railways stations, ranks, intermodal facilities etc

Commuter safety is also closely linked to the ability of authorities to manage road traffic and road transport operations in a holistic manner. Although substantial progress has been made with regard to safety of public transport through initiatives such as Arrive Alive, the Road to Safety Strategy (2001-2005), the establishment of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and the
promulgation of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), it is evident that an integrated approach should be followed to address the entire concept of safety in public transport. The Road to Safety Strategy follows this integrated approach.

Unfortunately it will take time to effectively roll out such a detailed strategy bearing in mind how far we have fallen behind in road traffic law enforcement and how little regard we have for the road traffic laws of the country. One only has to travel on our urban, provincial and national road network to observe the total lack of concern for the law and fellow road users by a significant proportion of the population. On top of this, we have a culture of aggressive behaviour towards other road users and high levels of irresponsibility with regard to basic rules of safe road usage.

2. The key contributory factors to road crashes

According to the Road to Safety Strategy (RSS) the main contributors to road crashes are:

· Driver factors - 80%-90%
· Vehicle factors - 10% - 30%
· Road environment - 5%-i 5%

From the above it is evident that most of the focus should be on driver and vehicle related factors. According to the RSS the key driver factors are:

· Excessive speed or speed too fast for the circumstances - in about 50% of the cases involving commercial freight and public passenger vehicles
· Driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or a drug having a narcotic effect
Fatigue due to long driving hours

· Basic driver incompetence Pedestrian road usage

The main focus of road traffic law enforcement (correctly if one takes account of the contributory factors mentioned above) appears to be on speeding offences with little regard for other contributory factors mentioned above. How often would a driver for example be stopped for speeding but with no roadworthy check being carried out on the vehicle?

The deterioration in the condition of many roads in the country is also a major source of concern. It is also disturbing to see many of the national roads in a condition of disrepair and in need of maintenance and rehabilitation. In the bus industry many buses have to make daily use of feeder roads in the rural areas to transport passengers to their places of work. Some of these roads are in a shocking condition - to such an extent that vehicles often incur serious suspension damage due to potholes and ditches that remain unattended.

3. What solutions could be offered to address the situation?

The solutions to solving the high accident and fatality rate in the country are multi-faceted and very complex. The RSS addresses these contributory factors holistically. At the risk of stating the obvious and repeating what has often been said in the past, the following are put forward for consideration:

· No strategy can be monitored effectively without a reliable, recent, accurate and detailed information database. Although the information may be captured and reported on In government or its agencies, it is not available to the operators as the information is simply not published in a format that can be of any use to a training department or service provider.

The most recent information that is available to the general public is to be found in the South African Statistics 2002 - a publication of Statistics South Africa. Only one table provides some detail of vehicles involved in road traffic collisions - and then the bus industry is combined with the commercial vehicle industry! Similarly, the minibus is combined with the motorcar! To be of any use to training departments, the industry needs detailed statistics of accidents per vehicle type, the causes of accidents, time of day, weather conditions, road conditions, types of roads, place of accidents etc.

To crown this lack of information, the last year for which information was published - even in this entirely unsatisfactory format - was 1998!

SABOA calls upon the authorities to disseminate and publish information that can be used to guide the industry in its endeavours to lower the road traffic collision rate in the country. SABOA is quite prepared to work with government in identifying the relevant information needs that would assist in the development of focused training programmes and further research. Unfortunately, there is a tendency by authorities to use the available information selectively and in a negative manner when issue is taken with the industry

Although the reason for delays is understood, it is disappointing that well-intentioned interventions take so long to bear fruit. Cases in point are the establishment and operationalising of the RTMC and the points demerit system. We believe that these initiatives will go a long way in addressing some of the fundamentals that underpin the unacceptably high number of road traffic collisions in the country. There is a great need for a uniform approach to road traffic law enforcement as well as an Improvement in the general skills base of such law enforcement officials. We would like to see the RTMC also address road transport issues together with road

traffic issues as we believe that a significant percentage of inter-modal rivalry eventually results in a road traffic law infringements and loss of life.

· The number of law enforcement personnel on our roads is insufficient to deal with the major task at hand. Coupled to the lack of adequate training, this results in a culture of lawlessness on our roads as the situation is exploited. It is imperative that more funds are made available to employ and train more law enforcement officials. When one bears in mind that road traffic collisions number more than 500 000 per annum and that more than 9 000 people lose their lives on our roads every year it calls for significant increases in dedicated funding, research and training to stem the loss of life and property. The situation is a national disaster that needs the proper attention that it deserves.

· SABOA has in the past repeatedly called for more attention to aspects such as moving offences and a focus on unroadworthy vehicles. Although progress has been made, it is too slow. It is disturbing to see so many obviously unroadworthy vehicles on our roads and the numbers seem to be increasing daily. The recent, highly publicised case of a totally unroadworthy bus and unlicensed driver operating on the main roads of the country between the Eastern Cape and Gauteng in the midst of the December peak season is a case in point. (It will be interesting to determine how many speed traps were set up on the roads at the time when this vehicle travelled those roads!)

· Moving offences happen around us every day every driver can testify to
it. It has become a way of life and we appear to accept it. Why is much more attention not paid to these offences? Many of them happen at intersections when drivers use the wrong traffic lanes, drive through the intersections against red traffic lights or simply ignore stop streets. On the open road the solid barrier line is crossed on virtually every incline as

vehicles pass each other. Quite often these practices take place in the face of oncoming traffic.

To summarise, SABOA believes that we are on the right track in addressing the appalling road safety record of the country in a holistic manner. The well-defined strategies are comprehensive and address the main causes of road traffic collisions as well as the systems and structures that underpin the law enforcement actions.

Much progress has been made on aspects such as standardised road signage, operator registration, reduced alcohol limits, the computerised learner's license test, credit card licenses, rollover protection, vehicle visibility at night, reduced speed limits for buses, addressing fraud and corruption at testing stations, overoading etc. We therefore continue to support the Road to Safety Strategy. It is however essential that substantial dedicated funding to support the strategy is made available so that more law enforcement officials can be employed and trained to execute the strategy. It is also essential that the effectiveness of the strategy is monitored not only in terms of road traffic collisions, but also in terms of indicators such as moving offences, overloading, unlicensed drivers, unroadworthy vehicles etc.

In the same manner we also continue to support the Arrive Alive Campaign, as we believe that it plays a major role in creating road safety awareness through the communications programme and public participation. The many facets of the strategy that underpin this campaign are laudable and should be continued.

We need however to understand that we have much ground to cover in order to normalise" our road traffic situation. It calls for cool heads and informed decisions.


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