It’s no secret that South Africa’s roads become hazardous over the festive season. Increased volume of cars on the road, urgency to arrive at holiday destinations, and the anticipation of seeing loved ones all contribute to an increase in the amount of accidents every year over this time.
While some of these accidents are caused by environmental factors, such as poor roads, inclement weather or poor visibility, the vast majority of them can be attributed to human error. According to a recent study*, men in particular are more likely to take fewer rest stops, drive when tired, and take more risks on the road, which can endanger their lives and those of other road users. Almost half of these accidents are fatal, with 2017 having the highest level of road fatalities in ten years. But even the most cautious drivers are at risk of being in accidents caused by others, and of the 14 000 people who died in road accidents in 2017, 70% of that number is made up of passengers and pedestrians.
According to the study, 80% of fatalities in accidents over the holiday season are men, who are often the breadwinners of households. The impact of an accident like this could have devastating consequences beyond the loss of life, by leaving remaining family members financially vulnerable, especially in the absence of life insurance.
Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s Transport minister, suggests that current initiatives to increase road safety, such as those released by Arrive Alive, are doing little to affect the statistics of road accidents in South Africa. Nzimande, in agreement with the Automobile Association, suggests that this is an issue that needs to be tackled by all South Africans by exercising caution when traveling, and by showing respect for other road users, especially during extremely busy times around the festive season.
So if you’re traveling around the holidays, remember to exercise caution, take frequent rest stops, and reduce your speed. Your life and the lives of others depend on it.
The good, the bad and the ugly of South African fatal road accidents. North West University for the South African Journal of Science.