Do we have the correct death toll on South African roads for December 2009?

Accident PictureThere has been much discussion on the death toll on South African roads during the past December. The Department of Transport has indicated that there has been a reduction in road deaths since December 2008 – and this has raised alarm bells with other road safety observers.

The Arrive Alive website has received an email questioning the data provided and would like to share this with our vehicle owners:

“CONTRADICTORY FIGURES HIDE ROAD DEATH RISE”

December 2009 death toll up by 16 per cent

Rob Handfield-Jones, MD of driving skills company, driving.co.za, says that the Department of Transport’s claim that the December 2009 road death toll was lower than that of December 2008 is invalid and based on contradictory figures.

“The DoT is currently claiming the death toll for December 2008 to be 1348; it was actually 908,” he said. “The Department released the lower figure to the media on several occasions in early-2009. It is a matter of public record and was referred to by transport officials during 2009. The death toll of 1050 for December 2009 is thus not a reduction, but an increase of almost 16 per cent,” he said.

Vehicle passengers were the biggest single category of fatalities in December 2009, accounting for 40 per cent of the total. “Government’s continued failure to address bus safety is a key factor in this regard,” Handfield – Jones said. He added that December 2009 claimed 142 more lives than December 2008, despite around 285 000 notices for speeding being issued. ”Speed control has once again been shown to be ineffective at reducing road deaths,” he said.

He said the DoT’s latest pronouncements further undermined the credibility of South Africa’s road safety data. “We don’t have an official death toll for the year 2008 / 2009, and the authorities haven’t released an annual road safety stats bundle for almost two years,” he commented. “The last credible and comprehensive data was released in 1998. Even the NIMSS reports compiled by researchers from UNISA and the Medical Research Council refer to the official death toll as an ‘…uncertain subgroup of motor vehicle collisions…’.”

Handfield – Jones said the DoT could not continue to justify its failures by blaming the road user. “Across the world, people only drive as badly as their governments permit them to,” he said. He called for a moving violations-based enforcement regime and a new driving licence system, as well as a Professional Driving Permit which included a driving skills test. He described the existing system as producing poor drivers who routinely committed moving violations which could be fatal even at low speeds.

“The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport should urgently investigate how the DoT came to use contradictory data in road safety comparisons, and also whether this was an unintentional error, or a deliberate attempt to hide an increased death toll ahead of the Soccer World Cup,” he concluded.

[ENDS]

Whatever the exact number of fatalities might be, we can agree with the Department of Transport that every fatality is one TOO MANY!!

View the Arrive Alive website for more information on Road Safety.

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