Action demanded on road safety strategy review

TRANSPORT Minister Dipuo Peters says transport authorities must move swiftly to finalise the review of the National Road Safety Strategy, as it is crucial to contributing towards reducing carnage on the country’s roads.

The Minister said this when opening the second annual National Road Safety Summit at Bridgeways Centre in Ratanga Junction in Cape Town on Friday.

The review of the National Road Safety Strategy was initiated at the first Road Safety Summit, which was held in Boksburg in 2013.

The Minister said in a country where many people lose their lives on the roads annually, the finalisation of the strategy has never been more urgent.

“It is inexcusable that in a country where 14 000 people die on the roads each year, the review of the 2006 National Roads Safety Strategy is still ongoing and has not yet been finalised.

“This review of the National Road Safety Strategy must be finalised without further delay and I would believe that the Director General together with the Deputy Director General of [Transport] and the CEOs of our roads agencies would take charge of this particular process and make sure that ultimately, by the end of June 2016, we do have a fully government-developed strategy.”

The Minister said the strategy must be aligned to internationally recognised interventions – which in most instances is called the Safe System Approach – as it acknowledges relationships between different factors that contribute to road crashes.

These are factors like human error and neglect, conditions of the vehicle, roads as well as environmental factors.

She said the Safe System Approach, which was originally developed in Sweden and has been implemented in countries like New Zealand since 2010, is a proven way to save lives and reduce injuries.

The Minister said it was important to note that South Africa was part of a global community and that benchmarking local strategies with those from other countries was important to improving road safety.

“I also want to indicate that a strategy will not be successful if it is not anchored in the communities.

“It is a strategy that should be informed by what happens in our communities,” she said.

The Minister said at community level, developments should create a space for children to be able to play, and for other forms of mobility – like cycling and walking – to happen.

She said the strategy should also be developed in a way that it can be used even in schools to teach children about road safety, as they are the future road users.

Meanwhile, the Minister said there was a need to strengthen traffic laws to ensure that road fatalities are reduced.

She said it was a concern that 80% of all road crash fatalities are adults and males aged between 19 and 34 years old.

“Pedestrians are the most vulnerable constituting just under 40% in both urban and rural areas.

“Inexperienced drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 years of age are most likely to die on the roads.

“Women are most likely to die on the road as passengers, especially in public transport vehicles.”

The Minister said she had published regulations for public comment, which would introduce new measures aimed at beefing up compliance.

These will include the re-testing of drivers who renew their driver’s licences, among others.