This Christmas holiday season an estimated 1,300 people will be killed on South Africa’s roads - and the government accepts its hard-hitting campaigns against dangerous driving seem to do little to prevent the carnage.
Pedestrians walking on busy roads, poor policing, drink-driving and speeding are among the reasons why the country suffers an annual death toll on its roads of about 13,000 people.
A World Health Organisation report published yesterday said that some 1.25mn people are killed in traffic accidents around the world each year, with Africa the continent by far with the most dangerous roads.
Despite massive awareness campaigns and government ministers pleading for people to drive more carefully, 1,368 road fatalities were recorded in South Africa between the beginning of December 2014 and January 5 this year.
The figure was slightly higher than the year before.
“This is an indication that when we speak our people do not listen. Why are the people of South Africa not able to listen?” Dipuo Peters, the exasperated minister of transport, said after the holiday death toll was counted.
On South Africa’s highways and in its cities, radar speed controls and alcohol breath tests are common, but police often accept small bribes of just 100 rand ($7.5) in place of a ticket or even an arrest.
“There’s a clear feeling of impunity. People know they can break the law and get away with it,” Sebastian Van As, chairman of the Global Road Safety Partnership South Africa lobby group, told AFP. “The laws are not enforced by policemen.”
Another major problem is that many poor South Africans are forced to walk along roads because public transport, pavements and bridges are scarce.
“A majority of people live in informal settlements where the infrastructure is very poor,” Van As said. “Pedestrians and particularly children who are walking along roads are the most exposed.”
The WHO report noted that Africa is particularly deadly for pedestrians and cyclists, who make up 43% of all road traffic deaths on the continent.
Despite the lack of progress, the South African government said it was not giving up.
“There are new regulations about seat belts, speed limits, drinking and driving,” Simon Zwane, spokesman of the Road Traffic Management Corp, told AFP. “The government is doing things.”
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