Curb­ing fa­tal­i­ties on roads

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - RAY MCCAULEY

Pas­tor Ray McCauley is the pres­i­dent of Rhema Fam­ily Churches and co-chair­man of the Na­tional Re­li­gious Lead­ers Coun­cil

TWO IS­SUES grab the imag­i­na­tion of South Africans this time of the year. These are ma­tric re­sults and fes­tive sea­son road fa­tal­i­ties.

The former is the first big news story of the year while the lat­ter comes in the sec­ond week of Jan­uary when the fes­tive sea­son tails off.

There have been times when both made for de­press­ing read­ing

This year, how­ever, we were spared the de­pres­sion by the 2016 ma­tric class.

They reg­is­tered a mar­ginal in­crease from a pass rate of 70.7per­cent in 2015 to 72.5 per­cent.

We should con­grat­u­late all who con­trib­uted to this achieve­ment.

Of course, de­trac­tors will al­ways be there but what­ever their crit­i­cism, the im­prove­ment can­not be de­nied.

Let me start with con­grat­u­lat­ing the stu­dents who ap­plied them­selves dur­ing the year and man­aged to achieve re­sults that en­abled them to ac­cess higher ed­u­ca­tion.

The higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem should not fail these young peo­ple.

The coun­try must con­tinue with ef­forts to en­sure that no stu­dent el­i­gi­ble for higher ed­u­ca­tion, and wishes to study fur­ther, is ex­cluded be­cause of lack of fi­nances or short­age of space in post ma­tric ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

This is ob­vi­ously work in progress, but we owe it to our young peo­ple to make op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them.

The same ap­plies to stu­dents who, be­cause of cir­cum­stances, may want to en­ter the world of work straight away.

Busi­nesses and the pub­lic sec­tor must give them a chance to gain work ex­pe­ri­ence while earn­ing an in­come. Ditto our newly grad­u­ated stu­dents.

EOH has al­ready demon­strated from its Youth Job Cre­ation Ini­tia­tive that it can be done if the de­ter­mi­na­tion is there and there is a will­ing­ness to find so­lu­tions in­stead of al­ways com­plain­ing.

One should also thank the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga, her pro­vin­cial coun­ter­parts and the teach­ers who put in a lot of hard work to as­sist our ma­tric­u­lants to get ready for the ex­ams. Mot­shekga’s task is no easy one. She has to undo decades of mise­d­u­ca­tion in our school­ing sys­tem and there is no doubt that she is giv­ing it her best shot.

With the Free State hav­ing at­tained the high­est pass rate and be­ing the first to break through the 90per­cent thresh­old, it de­serves a spe­cial con­grat­u­la­tory note. The prov­inces that are strug­gling may want to in­ves­ti­gate what it is the Free State is do­ing right.

On fes­tive road fa­tal­i­ties, it is ev­i­dent that current safety mea­sures are not work­ing.

In spite of the min­is­ter of trans­port and her roads en­ti­ties try­ing their best to en­cour­age re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour by road users, 1 714 fa­tal­i­ties hap­pened on our roads dur­ing this past fes­tive sea­son. Trans­port au­thor­i­ties say that is a 5per­cent in­crease on the pre­vi­ous pe­riod.

The sad re­al­ity is that road traf­fic to­day, upon which most cit­i­zens rely on, has be­come in­her­ently dan­ger­ous.

In fact, in con­trast to other modes of trans­port such as rail­ways and air traf­fic, the road traf­fic sys­tem is fail­ing dis­mally when it comes to safety.

Road safety has be­come a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion that calls for des­per­ate mea­sures.

We kill far too many peo­ple on our roads, an estimated 17000 a year.

Apart from the pain and anguish of­par­ents and relatives of those killed, road traf­fic ac­ci­dents re­port­edly cost the econ­omy bil­lions of rand an­nu­ally.

The ques­tion is how shall we re­spond to what has clearly be­come a na­tional cri­sis.

The is­sue of law en­force­ment and po­lice vis­i­bil­ity on our roads will def­i­nitely need to be ad­dressed. Cor­rup­tion must be given spe­cial at­ten­tion in the sys­tem. Current con­se­quences for those who break the law on our roads are not de­ter­ring enough, one would ar­gue.

I have read too many sto­ries about driv­ers in­volved in hor­rific ac­ci­dents only to find that they have pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions or out­stand­ing charges of traf­fic law vi­o­la­tions.

How does it hap­pen that such driv­ers are still found on our roads and are lit­er­ally be­ing let loose on other road users?

To re­duce the num­ber of road traf­fic ac­ci­dents, the pace of leg­isla­tive change and law en­force­ment need to be has­tened and more at­ten­tion paid to vul­ner­a­ble road users such as pedes­tri­ans and school­child­ren.

Noth­ing up­sets me more than see­ing school­child­ren be­ing ex­posed to risk by over­load­ing into ve­hi­cles, some of which are not road­wor­thy or ap­pro­pri­ate for scholar trans­port.

We vi­o­late these chil­dren’s rights to life and safety when we do not hold ac­count­able those re­spon­si­ble for trans­port­ing them. This is one area that def­i­nitely needs some leg­isla­tive in­ter­ven­tion and con­stant mon­i­tor­ing by traf­fic of­fi­cials.

Crit­i­cal as law en­force­ment is, we should never lose sight of the fact that, ul­ti­mately, it all boils down to in­di­vid­ual be­hav­iour by road users.

HEARTWRENCH­ING: Res­cuers and paramedics had to use the Jaws of Life to free two sur­vivors of this head-on col­li­sion near the N2 Bridge, in Dur­ban.

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