A FEW years ago I was hauled into the offices of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) for using the word "carnage" in a story about the situation on our roads, but it is almost impossible to view the fact that 40 people die on our roads every day as anything less.
The latest official statistics available show that more than 1,100 people have lost their lives on our roads since December 1 and even acting RTMC CEO Collins Letsoalo has acknowledged they are facing an uphill battle. "We do not think we are going to achieve our target of reduced deaths this season," he said.
This situation is worse considering the fact that only last week did the RTMC revise the death toll figure of 1,474 from last year to 1,771.
Rob Handfield-Jones of driving.co.za said the revised figure meant that the Christmas season last year was the deadliest in South Africa’s road safety history. But the figures so far this season suggest this year will be on a par, if not worse.
The RTMC has now launched its new road safety campaign that carries the slogan: "Get there. No regrets." The launch only took place last week, with RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail saying funding for the project was approved late.
The campaign is being run in conjunction with the United Nation’s Decade of Action for Road Safety along with other regional campaigns.
Mr Letsolao said it aimed to raise awareness of the issue to the same level as that of TB or HIV/AIDS. It was time "to do things differently" and the campaign would be "hard hitting" to ensure the message was brought home to everyone. "We want to be in your face," he said.
Mr Letsoalo further hit out at his colleagues at the Department of Transport, saying that the Arrive Alive campaign "has lost its legs".
Many of the concerns regarding co-ordination and law enforcement remain. RTMC recently had to distance itself from the activities of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), due to frustration at the corruption within the department.
National chairman of Justice Project SA Howard Dembovsky believes more concerted effort is needed. "What we need is a thorough transformation in both the way that drivers view the law and the way in which enforcement authorities enforce it," he said.
"This year, the leading cause of fatal crashes has reportedly been head-on collisions. Head-on collisions are not caused by speed. They are caused by people overtaking when they shouldn’t and usually this is in violation of a road marking and both parties refusing to get out of the way of the other."
According to statistics from the RTMC, 60% of drivers and pedestrians killed on our roads are over the legal blood alcohol limit. To change this requires a major shift in the mindset of South Africans and at the same time it needs more visible policing and greater law enforcement.
For thousands of people it will be too late and unless things change dramatically, 2013 is likely to be another year in which one person’s stupidity is another person’s tragedy.