The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the recent festive period road accident statistics. A 6% increase in road fatalities was recorded for the 2016/17 festive season when compared to the 2015/16 period. Major fatalities and injuries were recorded in Gauteng, Free State and Limpopo during the 2016/17 festive period. Head on collisions were the major crash type, with human/driver error to blame in 90% of the cases.
There were three major road fatality contributory factors, namely, human, vehicle, road and environmental factors. Human factors contributed 79.1% of festive season road fatalities in 2016/17. Tyre bursts prior to the accident as well as faulty brakes were the major contributory factor of vehicles. The Department noted that there was need for strict regulation on imported tyres and the roadworthiness of old cars on South African roads.
With interventions to reduce road fatalities, provinces were urged to budget for strategic and scheduled deployment of resources including overtime, targeted deployment of resources on identified hazardous locations, investigations on learners’ and drivers’ licences and road worthiness certificate issuance.
Members emphasised the need for robust and multipronged strategies towards the reduction of road fatalities. Most Members felt that an increase of traffic law enforcement officers on roads was not the ultimate solution. Police visibility should be coupled with doing away with corruption in the issuance of licences, behavioural change by society at large as well as hefty fines for traffic offenders that will serve as a deterrent against road infractions.
Festive Period Road Accident Statistics
Adv. Makhosini Msibi, CEO, Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), took the Committee through presentation on the festive period accident statistics. He outlined the methodology used for the compilation of the Festive Season Report, road crashes for the 2016/17 festive season and root causes for operational inefficiencies as well as remedial interventions. The Culpable Homicide Crash Observation Report (CHoCOR) was used to collect data on fatal crashes on a daily basis, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) provided a list of all recorded fatal crashes (CAS list).
He graphically illustrated that the vehicle population had been increasing by 3% over the past six years - for 2016, the increase was 2.2%. The presentation then looked at the percentage distribution of vehicles per province. Gauteng constituted 36.64% followed by the Western Cape with 15.96% and KwaZulu-Natal with 13.46% of the vehicle population in the country. On the number of learner driving licenses issued, there had been no major increase in the number of learner’s licences issued however, the trend had been a movement away from motor vehicles to heavy learners’ licences.
Adv Msibi then compared festive season fatal crashes year on year (01 December- 09 January 2015/16 and 2016/17). There had been a worrying jump in KZN and Limpopo. A 6% increase in the number of fatalities was recorded countywide. There were three major road fatality contributory factors, namely, human, vehicle and road and environmental factors. Human factors contributed 79.1% of festive season road fatalities in 2016/17. Tyre bursts prior to the accident as well as faulty brakes were the major contributory factors by vehicles to road fatalities. There was need for strict regulation on imported tyres and the roadworthiness of old cars on South African roads.
The presentation then outlined the major crashes investigated by the Corporation. Major fatalities and injuries were recorded in Gauteng, Free State and Limpopo during the 2016/17 festive period. Head on collisions were the major crash types with human/driver error to blame in 90% of the cases. This was followed by discussion on the root causes of operational deficiencies in road management included paucity of law enforcement resources, lack of traffic enforcement supervision, incoherent application of the 24/7 shift system, over reliance on overtime payment and the quality of drivers and roadworthiness of vehicles on South African roads. Traffic law enforcement officer to driver and vehicle population ratios were then pinpointed. Each officer covered 42km of road network and monitored 611 vehicles.
Adv Msibi also outlined remedial intervention to reduce festive season road fatalities - provinces were urged to budget for strategic and scheduled deployment of resources including overtime, targeted deployment of resources on identified hazardous locations, investigate learners’ and drivers’ licences and road worthiness certificate issuance.
The Chairperson commended the presentation and urged the Committee and RMTC to address the issue of human capital on roads. Instances of not having police officers manning roadblocks after 18h00 increased the incidence of carnages.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) asked whether RTMC had come up with a clever connection between the alarming statistics on road fatalities and specific programs of safety towards behavioural changes. Did the number of vehicles per province inform funding decisions and necessary allocation of resources? He expressed concern with what was happening at vehicle roadworthiness inspection facilities - there were allegations that roadworthiness was exercised in offices without actual inspection of vehicles. There was no actual proof to verify that vehicles were tested according to the exact criteria imposed and therefore there was a need for auditing the exercise. There was also a need to evaluate the K53 exercise’s efficiency and effectiveness to ensure roads were used by well-trained drivers. The Committee had been hearing about the issue of traffic officers’ overtime and 24/7 shift management program for too long – RTMC needed to come up with the design and plan to address the issue.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) commended the comprehensiveness of presentation. He asked RTMC to explain what human factors, as relating to road fatalities contributory factors, meant. He argued that efforts were wasted on pointless strategies not addressing the problems, such as stopping vehicles and checking if drivers were licensed when most of the licenses were acquired through unscrupulous channels. He did not see how having many roadblocks would lead to the reduction of road fatalities. Efforts should be directed towards testing the roadworthiness of vehicles particularly through checking tyres and brakes instead. Road fines had to be hefty such that offenders felt the pain. Such fines would prove to be a real deterrent.
Mr De Freitas felt that the issue of cost containment by National Treasury was too recent to blame for the upsurge of road fatalities - what was the excuse for road fatalities before that? He disagreed with the idea that more traffic law enforcement officers were needed to curtail fatalities. He felt it was RTMC’s excuse for not doing anything. Corrupt officials in licencing departments were the issue and it had to be addressed as a matter of urgency. He commented that remedial interventions suggested by RTMC did not match to what the real problems were. For instance, if traffic law enforcement officers were to be increased on roads, how can they possibly check the roadworthiness of vehicles thoroughly at roadblocks, without requisite equipment? Strategies needed to be multipronged.
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) emphasised that there was need for thorough mass education to reduce human behaviour as a contributory factor in road fatalities. That cannot be done by RTMC alone but was a societal responsibility. He begged to differ with Mr De Freitas, noting that cop visibility was a deterrent and an agent for behavioural change on roads. He agreed with the RTMC that there was need for an increase in traffic officer visibility on the road. He asked about the contribution of single road users in causing fatalities and the solutions for that. He found the inconsistency of traffic fines worrying. There was need for legislation around minimum sentences for traffic offenders. Was RTMC checking vehicle roadworthiness testing stations regularly?
Mr M Maswanganyi (ANC) laid emphasis on the need for behavioural change in society. People should take responsibility for road carnages and do away with the spirit of entitlement. Traffic law enforcement officers were always blamed for motorists’ transgressions, shot at and this was demoralising. Traffic officers needed the support of society in reducing road carnages. Some other developing countries were keeping road fatalities low with little infrastructure and financial resources – how was this being done?
The Chairperson asked whether traffic officers were knowledgeable enough and had equipment to spot-check vehicle roadworthiness effectively in roadblocks. Was there adequate coordination and congruence of traffic control programs and strategies between road traffic personnel in local and national governments? RTMC and the Department of Transport ought to ensure convergence and synchronization of measures. Dealing with driver attitudes was of paramount importance and stakeholders should come up with methods and programs to deal with taxi drivers especially.
Mr Chris Hlobisa, Deputy Director-General, Department of Transport, agreed that road safety was everyone’s responsibility and road carnage was a societal issue. The crux of the matter was in changing human behaviour and attitudes. Issues such as drunken driving, road rages and lack of respect in roads had to be addressed to reduce road fatalities. He clarified that roadblocks did allow for comprehensive checks. RTMC had introduced mobile vehicle brake testers that will be rolled out and expanded nationwide. RTMC was also working on rooting out corruption. He invited Members to come along when the Department was doing road spot-checks to gain some perspective on how traffic law enforcement agents were conducting their work.
Ms Magadi Ganene, Head: Road Traffic Information, RMTC, agreed that RTMC had to look at best practices in other countries in efforts to reduce road fatalities and work on applying the same in SA.
Adv. Msibi noted that the need for the amendment of K53 in terms of road safety strategies was acknowledged. He highlighted that RTMC was dealing with the proper accreditation of driving schools and development of robust traffic officer deployment models to ensure visibility and constant monitoring.
He replied to Mr De Freitas’ question on which human factors contributed to road fatalities – they included, jaywalking by pedestrians, inconsiderate driving by motorists and drunk driving. He commented that RTMC was working on capacitating roadblocks. 12 mobile weighbridges used to test roadworthiness on roadblocks have been rolled out so far.
On the issue of fines and penalties, Adv. Msibi noted that the Deputy Minister tasked RTMC to facilitate engagement with the Magistrates Commission to look into having minimum mandatory sentences for traffic offences. Parallel to these efforts was the reclassification of offences so that sterner measures were taken against offenders.
Mr Husinger encouraged RMTC to engage more with the Committee to increase trust, credibility and effectiveness in dealing with road traffic management. He noted that the Committee was also working on relevant legislation to ensure that roads were safer. He emphasised that road accidents were a huge cost to the country.
Mr Ramatlakane noted that four provinces were identified as having the highest incidences of road fatalities. What could be a possible turnaround strategy to address this all year round and not just the festive season?
Adv. Msibi replied that one of the turnaround strategies was to partner with the Department of Basic Education. An example was the road safety which had been made mandatory in the life orientation curriculum for school learners. RTMC was working on a plan to reduce carnage in the four provinces and the paper will be released soon. He pleaded for the Committee’s assistance with the mobilisation of resources to effectively carry out the RTMC mandate of saving lives effectively.
The Chairperson asked what RTMC was looking at in terms of reviewing legislation.
Adv. Msibi responded that the Committee could look into grants and funds dedicated for sprucing up provincial road safety infrastructure. There was need to set aside funds for road safety as there was no budget for this currently.
The Chairperson said this was work in progress and decisions would be taken in the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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