Updated 02 July 2014

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The tragic death of movie star Paul Walker has highlighted the alarming number of motor vehicle accidents in South Africa. Here’s how you can avoid becoming a victim during the festive season.

The fatal car crash that claimed the life of Fast and Furious star Paul Walker has put the alarming number of motor vehicle accidents in the spotlight, especially here in South Africa. Here are the most common causes and how you can avoid becoming a victim – especially during the festive season when people tend to be less responsible on our roads.

A quick look at past statistics

-The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC ) reported that there were 1 221 fatal crashes in December 2010. A year later, in December 2011, the number had risen to 1 230.

-In the 3 months from January to March 2012, there was a 10% increase in fatal car crashes.  

-Based on the provisional data for the year 2012, there were 9 852 fatal crashes with 12 211 deaths.

-The International Transport Forum's (ITF) latest road safety report ranked South Africa as the 36th worst country when it came to the number of road fatalities.

-The ITF reported that in 2011, in South Africa alone, there were an estimated 27 road-related deaths per 100 000 people. The second worse was Malaysia with 23 deaths per 100 000 people.

-Driver fatalities stood at 373 in November 2011 and increased by 5% to 393 in March 2012.

-A little good news: passenger fatalities showed a 35% decrease from November 2011 to March 2012 from 392 to 290.

Most common causes of crashes

According to a report published by the Department of Transport, the most common causes of crashes during the festive season were the following:

-Driving under the influence.  According to the RTMC, the number of intoxicated drivers decreased from 2010 to 2011.

-Unlicensed drivers. These drivers are a danger to themselves and other road users because they are untrained and/or untested.

-Vehicle fitness. The RTMC reported that the number of un-roadworthy vehicles had decreased by 7% from 2010 to 2011. While the number of unlicensed vehicles increased by 2.56% (315 076 to 323 128) during the same period.

-Fatigue. Long distance driving can lead to exhaustion.

-Speeding can result in the driver losing control of the vehicle and causing an accident.

-Reckless driving and breaking the rules of the road, e.g. driving through red traffic lights or illegal overtaking.

-Pedestrian negligence. Careless or intoxicated pedestrians may cause accidents.

What to do at the scene of an accident?

-Make sure that all parties involved in the accident are fine.

-Phone an ambulance immediately if anyone appears to be seriously injured.

-Report the accident to the police immediately.

-Record all the details of drivers, passengers and witnesses: ID numbers, contact details and vehicle registration numbers.

-Take photographs of the damage.

Road safety tips

According to Automobile Association of South Africa, drivers should follow these safety tips in order to avoid accidents:

-Obey the rules of the road.

-Never drink and drive.

-Always wear a seatbelt.

-Do not drive when you are tired. Make rest stops every two hours and switch drivers if possible.

Measures to ensure road safety

The Department of Transport has adopted the following measures to ensure road safety:

-Road Safety education at schools

-Setting up Community Road Safety Councils

-Starting 'The Friends of the decade forum'. This aims to involve the private sector, labour organisations as well as other stakeholders in matters of road safety.

-Awarding the Road Safety Scholarship. This involves a young Road Safety Activist who is nominated to be trained in road safety with people from other parts of the world.

-Voluntary Traffic Observers Programme. All South Africans are encouraged to join to bring down the fatality rate on our roads.



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