With the Easter holidays upon us, it is an opportune time to reinforce the important need for road safety, discourage drinking and driving and warn against the effect of under-age drinking of alcohol.
At the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) we are passionate about creating the framework for the youth of South Africa to meet their full potential in society, so it is particularly sad and disappointing for us when we see young people die or get injured on our roads. This happens far too frequently in our country, especially at heavily congested times such as Easter and the Festive Season.
Not only is it a great sadness and stress for families when the lives of young people are needlessly taken due to road accidents, these unfortunate events also rob our country of the employees, employers, entrepreneurs, thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.
As a country, we have much to be concerned about when it comes to road accident statistics. Easter has become one of the worst periods historically in terms of claiming most lives. This happens during a time when most people take advantage of the school and university holidays as well as the long weekend to travel to various destinations across the country to take a break or visiting families
This year, the NYDA wants to issue a challenge to South Africans in general and young people in particular, those who are driving, passengers and pedestrians; they must make this Easter holiday accident and incident-free.. Let’s us all work together to bring down the numbers of deaths and injuries on our roads through responsible driving, no matter how short or how long the journey may be.
All those who are driving this Easter, let us all go out of our way to drive more responsibly than in the past years. This means driving within the speed limit, ensuring that all vehicles are roadworthy, and be courteous to other road users. Be alert, watch out for pedestrians and remember that you are in charge of your passengers whose lives are also in your hands. If you are a passenger, ensure that the driver is behaving responsibly – your life is in his or her hands.
I want to plead with all drivers – especially young people –not to take alcohol before embarking on a road trip or a journey. It is also very important to note that alcohol is not only a problem when driving is involved. Restraint needs to be exercised with alcohol at all times as excessive consumption can lead to all sorts of problems which can often have dire consequences.
Earlier this year, the NYDA joined hands with South African Breweries, the Department of Trade and Industry and the provincial departments of education to rollout a programme called “You Decide”. This programme is aimed at combating under-age consumption of alcohol which has become a major problem across the country. It is estimated that one out of every two teenagers is a user of alcohol. This programme involves a road-show which demonstrates and brings home the important message to teenagers of the terrible effects that under-age drinking can have on their school performance and their opportunities to further themselves after school. The initial phase of the programme ran in Kwazulu-Natal, and it is now being rolled out in Mpumalanga, Free State and North West, reaching some 360 schools and targeting an estimated 400 000 learners this year alone. The programme will be run for a number of years, expanding its reach annually until all provinces in the country have been covered.
The bottom line is that whether you are driving or drinking this Easter, do both responsibly and definitely not together. Adults should also set a good example and also play a vital role in ensuring that under-age drinking does not take place. Turning a blind eye is not good enough; active efforts are needed to ensure that it does not take place. Let us all ensure that we do not endanger our health; potentially ruining the talent of tomorrow.
By Andile Lungisa
National Youth Development Agency