Minister Blames ‘Killer Sundays’ For Majority of Festive Season Road Fatalities

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, wearing a red beret, with members of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) at the Grasmere Toll Plaza outside Johannesburg. Photo: JMPD

The South African Transport Ministry has commended law enforcement officers for their dedicated efforts in reducing road fatalities during the 2023/24 festive season road safety campaign, as compared to the previous year.

During the 2023/24 festive period, there were 1,184 fatal road accidents, showing a 2.3 percent decrease from the previous year’s 1,212 road fatalities in the 2022/23 season.

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga expressed her sympathies for the lives lost during the season, highlighting the fact that these statistics represent individuals with aspirations and ambitions.

Announcing the annual festive season road fatalities statistics at the Grasmere Toll Plaza outside Johannesburg on Wednesday, January 24, she requested a moment of silence to pay tribute to those who have passed and offered prayers for the healing of the wounded.

“Although we refer to this information on road safety performance as statistics, we are talking about breadwinners, professionals, mothers, fathers, and children who lost their lives needlessly on the roads, largely due to, in the main, negligent behavior. These are actual human beings whose hopes, aspirations, and ambitions were dashed.

“They include luminaries such as the talented playwright Dr. Mbongeni Ngema, a Member of Parliament, Ms. Alice Mthembu, two Newcastle-based medical doctors, Dr. Sondezi and Dr. Mhlobo, a Limpopo provincial traffic inspector, Kedibone Railo, who was knocked by a speeding motorist while on duty on the N1, as well as a young newlywed, Pretty Matimba Mavundla, who died seven days after getting married,” she said.

Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said that Sundays saw the highest number of fatalities during the 2023/24 festive period. Photo: Supplied.

Chikunga, on the other hand, credited the decrease in fatalities to the increased efforts of law enforcement operations and the noticeable presence of police officers nationwide.

“More than 1.4 million vehicles were stopped and checked in the period under review with 7 820 drivers arrested for, among others, driving under the influence of alcohol, inconsiderate and reckless driving, producing false documentation and excessive speeding,” she said.

Road fatalities have a negative impact on the economy, which also causes delays in payments to victims from the Road Accident Fund.

Chikunga highlighted the substantial economic impact of road crashes, fatalities, and injuries in South Africa, stating that these incidents cost billions of rands and put strain on health and social services.

She commended law enforcement for the consistent progress made in road safety over the past five years. The cumulative annual road fatalities have decreased from 12,921 in 2018 to 12,436 in 2022.

The preliminary data for the 2023/24 festive season indicates that road accidents have nearly stabilized in comparison to the previous year. Despite the challenges posed by the large number of registered vehicles during this period, the statistics show significant progress.

Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga conducts an oversight visit during the 2023/24 road safety campaign in Mbombela, Mpumalanga. Chikunga highlighted the substantial economic impact of road crashes, fatalities, and injuries in South Africa, stating that these incidents cost billions of rands and put strain on health and social services. Photo: Government of South Africa

According to Chikunga, the season was characterized by significant rainfall and storms, resulting in difficulties on the road. Several drivers neglected to reduce their speed in slippery conditions, resulting in preventable crashes. Additionally, there were instances where vehicles were swept away due to drivers’ insistence on crossing flooded bridges.

The ministry also highlighted specific trends observed in the crashes and fatalities that occurred during the festive period. For example, the majority of crashes took place during the initial week, third week, and final week of December.

Most of the crashes occurred during the evening hours, specifically between 7 pm and 10 pm, with the highest number of incidents happening between 8 pm and 9 pm.

“Sundays saw the highest number of fatalities, which is a new trend. Human factors contributed to 80.8% of the crashes, while environmental factors accounted for 10.4% and vehicle factors for 8.8%. Pedestrians accounted for 40.9% of the fatalities, passengers for 33.6%, drivers for 24.6%, and cyclists for 0.8%. The majority of those who died were between the ages of 25 and 44,” Chikunga said.

The number of fatalities varied across different provinces. The Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo, and North West had fewer fatalities, while Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, and the Western Cape experienced increases. The Eastern Cape was the only province that achieved its target for reducing fatalities.



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