Stay safe on the road this Easter holiday

During the 2013 Easter period, 241 people lost their lives on South African roads. This was an increase from 2012, when 217 people died in road accidents. Nicolette Dirk speaks to some role players in road safety to find out how you can keep yourself safe.


In light of the scourge on our roads, the Road Accident Fund (RAF) will be contributing towards a broader campaign by government, stakeholders such as interfaith organisations and civil society towards the reduction of road crashes.

What are the main causes of deaths on the road?


Driving under the influence of alcohol

According to the Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa, a fatal crash happens every 48 minutes in South Africa, resulting in more than 13 800 deaths a year. More than half of all people killed in crashes during 2013 were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their death.

Charlotte Sullivan, director for South Africans Against Drunk Driving (Sadd), says between 60 and 65% of all fatal crashes in the country  are alcohol related, e.g. either the driver is drunk or the pedestrian that he hits is drunk or both.
“The most dangerous times on the roads are the evenings and early mornings. Often drivers are still drunk from the night before. There is very little breathalysing taking place, either at random road blocks or at crash scenes.  People drink then drive because they know that they can get away with it,” says Sullivan.

Drinking and driving is a dangerous crime so you need to ensure that only sober drivers get behind the wheel. Drinking and driving can result in death, injury and arrest. Niki Cronje, group marketing at Imperial I-Pledge, says the problem is many South Africans have a belief that they will never be involved in an accident.

But not everyone knows what the legal limit is when it comes to alcohol. In a bid to curb the high rate of road deaths, Brandhouse developed an initiative called Drink IQ. Here are some of their tips on calculating your alcohol consumption:

  • Your blood may not have an alcohol content of more than 0.05%.
  • This is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content.
  • For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14% is acceptable.
  • Whisky and brandy connoisseurs can drink up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour.


Not wearing your seatbelt

Sullivan says that another reason South Africa scores so badly in comparison with the rest of the world when it comes to road deaths is our culture of not wearing seatbelts. “There is virtually no enforcement of our existing seat belt laws (it is the law to buckle up both in the front and rear of a vehicle).  In a high speed crash the occupants of the vehicle who are not buckled up are therefore ejected and have a very low survival rate – particularly children,” says Sullivan.

The AA advises motorists to make it a rule that everyone in the car wears a seatbelt. Especially since wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of death in a head-on crash by as much as 72 percent.

Cronje says that you should check that your children are buckled up properly and that car-seats for babies are properly installed.


Speed kills

According to Sullivan, South African drivers – due to the lack of law enforcement – tend to drive too fast. More than 80% of crashes are preceded by a violation of a traffic law e.g. speeding, illegal U-turns, overtaking on the inside etc.

“The government is not making any progress with regards to our appalling road deaths. We require a drastic increase in the amount of law enforcement and stricter penalties for road deaths,” says Sullivan.

To stay safe on the road this holiday, do not exceed the speed limit while driving. The higher the speed, the longer the braking distance and the more difficult it is to control the vehicle in the process of stopping. Cronje says that because speeding is such a problem on South African roads it is best to drive defensively.

“This means being alert if other drivers are not following the rules and keeping a safe following distance from other vehicles,” says Cronje.


Un-roadworthy vehicles

Another cause for concern on South African roads are un-roadworthy vehicles. During the 2013 festive period 2 399 vehicles were discontinued and 2 449 were impounded.

Stanley Anderson, marketing director at Hyundai Automotive South Africa, says the government recently stated that if a driver of an un-roadworthy vehicle is in a fatal accident, the driver will be charged with either culpable homicide or murder and will go to jail.

“We urge motorists to consider that this situation is preventable. Take your vehicle for a pre-check, before any long journey,” says Anderson.

Most dealerships or workshops offer free or discounted vehicle checks before the Easter period and drivers should take advantage of these offers.

“These checks include a roadworthy evaluation, and inspecting elements such as lights, wheel alignment, exhaust, front and rear wheels, windscreen wipers, shock absorbers, CV joints and battery,” says Anderson.