Road deaths cost the state bil­lions

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­

Barely hours af­ter Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi re­leased hor­rific Easter road-crash sta­tis­tics, in which fa­tal­i­ties grew by 51%, re­ports that 19 learn­ers per­ished on their way back from schools be­tween Bronkhorstspruit and Grob­lers­dal sur­faced.

The learn­ers – from two Gaut­eng schools, Re­fano Pri­mary and Mahlenga Sec­ondary schools – were be­ing fer­ried in a sprinter minibus headed for their homes in the Mpumalanga towns of Wol­venkop and Ver­ena, re­spec­tively, when the school minibus col­lided with a horse-and-trailer truck on the R25 be­tween Bronkhorstspruit and Grob­lers­dal on Fri­day.

A few hours ear­lier, Maswan­ganyi had told re­porters in Pre­to­ria that gov­ern­ment hoped that com­mu­ni­ties would take road ac­ci­dents se­ri­ously.

This af­ter road deaths in­creased dur­ing the Easter long week­end from 156 last year to 235 this year, ac­cord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary re­port by the Road Traf­fic Man­age­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (RTMC).

Over Easter, there was an in­crease of fa­tal­i­ties across prov­inces ex­cept in the Free State.

Maswan­ganyi be­moaned the fact that gov­ern­ment spent a to­tal of R147 bil­lion an­nu­ally on road ac­ci­dents. This fig­ure was in ad­di­tion to the R33 bil­lion spent an­nu­ally by the Road Ac­ci­dent Fund on pay­ing out in­jury claims.

He said th­ese funds could be redi­rected to other gov­ern­ment pri­or­i­ties, such as ad­dress­ing unem­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity, if driver be­hav­iour im­proved and crashes were re­duced.

Maswan­ganyi also ex­pressed con­cern that the crashes and fa­tal­i­ties were hap­pen­ing de­spite the de­ploy­ment of more than 18 000 of­fi­cers to hot spots on haz­ardous na­tional routes dur­ing the Easter hol­i­days.

Au­thor­i­ties noted that most ac­ci­dents happened on res­i­den­tial and ru­ral roads.

“We em­pha­sise aware­ness more than en­force­ment. We can­not have an of­fi­cer on every cor­ner of our roads. We will con­tinue to im­prove en­force­ment poli­cies and strate­gies,” said Maswan­ganyi.

For­mer finance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han said dur­ing the tabling of this year’s bud­get that gov­ern­ment would have a bal­ance of R149 bil­lion, which would have to be bor­rowed. This fig­ure was al­most equal to the amount spent by gov­ern­ment on road crashes and fa­tal­i­ties an­nu­ally.

In this year’s Bud­get Review, com­piled by out­go­ing Trea­sury di­rec­tor-gen­eral Lungisa Fuzile, it was noted that the wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion bud­get was es­ti­mated at R125.3 bil­lion. This would go to­wards de­vel­op­ing and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing wa­ter infrastructure, in­clud­ing dams, canals, wa­ter treat­ment works, reser­voirs and pipe­lines to con­nect house­holds. The amount was less than that spent on road crashes an­nu­ally.

The review also showed that while gov­ern­ment forked out bil­lions on road ac­ci­dents, it was spend­ing less on some of its so­cial pro­grammes.

RTMC board chair­per­son Ad­vo­cate Zola Ma­javu said he was dis­ap­pointed that the cor­po­ra­tion had not achieved its tar­get of re­duc­ing ac­ci­dents by 50% this Easter, cit­ing hu­man be­hav­iour and the lack of con­se­quences as fac­tors.

Western Cape Trans­port MEC Don­ald Grant said one of the chal­lenges faced by the prov­ince was pedes­tri­ans cross­ing high­ways. In the Western Cape, 30 000 pedes­tri­ans risked their lives cross­ing high­ways weekly, de­spite the pres­ence of bridges and el­e­vated walk­ways, which were also hard to po­lice.

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