According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1.3 million people worldwide lose their lives each year to preventable road accidents. Fatigue, unroadworthy vehicles, speeding, faulty brakes, alcohol abuse and a blatant disregard for road rules are just some of the factors contributing to the increase in road accidents and road accident-related fatalities globally. This is particularly true in South Africa, which has some of the world’s most dangerous roads to travel on, notoriously bad drivers, and high road accident-related fatalities which are higher during the festive season..

According to the Department of Transport, the death toll for December 2011-January 2012 was 1 475 with an average of 40 people killed daily on South Africa’s roads. It’s not surprising then that South Africa ranks as one of the world’s most dangerous places to drive primarily due to driver behaviour and attitude. The Association for Safe International Road Travel states that road accidents cost USD $518 billion globally and cost individual countries between 1-2% of their annual GDP In South Africa, motor vehicle accidents are estimated to cost the country over R 60 billion each year. This cost will continue to rise unabated if nothing is done to prevent more road accidents from occurring.

Driver behaviour, especially when combined with poor driving choices and habits, is a major contribution to road accidents and deaths, particularly during the festive season. It only takes a few changes in driving behaviour to make a significant contribution to decreasing these statistics, and turn the situation around. If nothing is proactively done to decrease these accidents and deaths, then by 2015, road accidents will become one of the leading causes of premature deaths globally, and the death rate will increase to 2 million lives lost each year, and possibly double to four or five million lives lost in developing countries by 2030. This, if allowed to happen, will have a detrimental impact on families, individual lives and the economy, for most of these deaths will be among young people.

By combining South African national road accident statistics and data drawn from Discovery Insure’s DQ Track programme, Discovery Insure’s telematics device, which analyses driving indicators such as speed, acceleration, braking, cornering and more, Discovery Insure found that motor vehicle accidents account for 75% of young adult deaths., This confirms with the WHO’s concerns that most road accident-related deaths, if road accidents continue to increase, will involve young people.

Discovery Insure has 25 852 active drivers and out of these drivers, 1 555 drivers are young adults who are younger than 26. Furthermore, 60% of accidents are preceded by some form of irresponsible or risky driving behaviour. Regarding young adult driving behaviour, Discovery Insure found that 9 in 10 young adults think they are above average or excellent drivers, and this form of optimistic thinking contributes to the high accident rate. The reality, is that one out of every three young adults have been in an accident, and over ninety percent of young adult drivers are most likely to engage in risky driving behaviour.

The top three risky driving behaviours young drivers engage in before an accident, are peer-influenced behaviour, late night driving, and speeding. Harsh braking, which is indicative of insufficient following distances, also plays a role in accidents. These risky driving behaviours also play a role in the increase in road accidents, particularly over the festive season, whether the driver is travelling within one city, or to another city, and according to Discovery Insure statistics, one out of every five motor vehicles is not roadworthy, and three out of five accidents are preventable.

Discovery Insure encourages all South Africans travelling on the roads to make better lifestyle and driving choices as it means people are healthier, and able to make a positive contribution to the economy. To achieve this drivers should take note of the following road safety tips : comply with road rules, don’t drink and drive, have your drivers’ licence with you, plan your route ahead of the trip, and ensuring your vehicle is roadworthy before departure – this includes tyre, light, brakes, steering wheel, windscreen wipers, and exhaust system checks. Always maintain a safe following distance, and to avoid fatigue, make regular rest stops every two hours, drive with your lights on, even during the day for high visibility, avoid driving at night, and be constantly alert to road conditions and changing weather conditions.

[Written by Anton Ossip, Discovery Insure CEO]

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