Figures released by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters in Pretoria recently showed that road fatalities over the festive season increased by a staggering 14 percent on the previous year.

According to the Minister, the preliminary figures showed that 1755 people died on South African roads from 1 December 2015 to 11 January 2016. According to the Automobile Association (AA) these figures are alarming and concerning and they point to a need for concerted intervention to address the problem of road safety in South Africa.

“We are concerned by these figures which will undoubtedly increase once the final numbers are calculated. We expect that the final figures will be close to 2000 deaths over the period. We are deeply worried by these numbers and extend our condolences to the families and friends of all who lost their lives during this time,” the AA said.

The Association said while several factors contributed to this figure, the over-riding reason for the road deaths was poor driver attitude and a disregard for the law.

“Many causes such as drunk driving, speeding, driving without seatbelts and risky overtaking, have been forwarded as reasons for the fatalities, but all of these, essentially, point to poor driver attitudes. If drivers don’t take responsibility for their actions, and carry on making decisions that they know to be wrong for their own sake, these figures will simply not improve,” the AA noted.

In addition to improved driver behaviour, the AA believes that better, and stricter, law enforcement is needed. The Association said moving violations are areas that traffic law enforcers needed to come down harder on. Co-ordinated safe driving campaigns to educate all road users, aimed at reducing crashes and fatalities were also vital to bring the numbers down.

The AA also said it is important that government make available the latest in-depth statistics for annual road deaths in South Africa to enable road safety campaigners to assess which initiatives and interventions are working, and which are not.

“Unfortunately the data currently available is from 2011 and does not provide a clear indication of the trends of road deaths. Road crash statistics need to be widely available and accurate to ensure that everyone is working towards reducing crashes and fatalities through an understanding of the true nature of the current problem,” the AA concluded.