Road traffic accidents – most of them deadly – cost the South African economy approximately R306 billion (about 31 billion USD) each year, South African transport minister Dikobe Ben Martins revealed yesterday, adding that this does not take into account the terrible pain and anguish of the parents and relatives of those that are killed.
These emotional revelations were made yesterday as an investigation has been ordered to find the cause of the accident that killed eight people and injured 34 school children in Ulundi in Kwazulu Natal Province.
Initial reports said an Isuzu bus carrying school children from Zamimpilo Special School overturned when the driver lost control. They were travelling from Richards Bay sports ground in Ulundi.
“The only way to stop irresponsible behaviour on our roads is to impose harsher sentences to those who disregard the rules of the road,” Martins said.
Despite having what seems like the best road infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, deadly accidents in South Africa occur almost every day and every minute. Most accidents seem to be the cause of drunken driving, Formula One-like driving, unroadworthy vehicles and disregard for the rule of the law, among others. Huge money is spent every year on campaigns (TV, outdoor, radio, print) calling for responsible driving and respect for traffic laws, but all this continues to fall on deaf ears.
“At present road crashes are reportedly the leading causes of death among the 15-29 age groups,” the transport minister said yesterday in a statement.
“By 2015, it is projected to be the leading cause of death in the 5-15 age groups, causing more deaths even higher than HIV and Malaria. Alcohol abuse causes half of these injuries and deaths.”
The economic ramifications of these accidents include the increase in the social development and health budgets spent, Martins said.
Deadly crashes involving school children are a common sight in South Africa as most of the vehicles transporting pupils are said to be unroadworthy. Testing centres that are supposed to stop such vehicles from ‘polluting’ the country’s roads are also said to be infested with corruption as certificates of roadworthiness are sold to the highest bidder.
The department of transport said it was considering mechanisms to introduce scholar transport policy which will, among others, ensure that vehicles used to transport learners are in good conditions.
*Photo by Road Safety.co.za