Saturday Star

Easter road deaths blunder


AT JUST after 7pm on April 1, a motorcycli­st hit a pedestrian on Kanniedood Road in Weltevrede­npark, Johannesbu­rg.

By the time paramedics arrived on the scene, the man believed to be in his forties was dead.

He was to be the second known person to die on the roads that Thursday before Good Friday. At 4.37am paramedics arrived at an accident scene on the N1 highway before the Maraisburg off-ramp, in Maraisburg, where a driver had slammed into a pole. He died in hospital. Both fatalities happened on the day that Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula claimed there were no road deaths. In a speech given a week later at the N1 South Grasmere toll plaza, when traffic authoritie­s were winding down their Easter operations, the minister said:

“There were no fatalities on Thursday when traffic volumes reached the peak.”

To road-user campaigner­s and organisati­ons concerned with motoring, this was a further indication that the statistics that showed South Africa had experience­d a sharp decrease in the number of road accident fatalities over the Easter weekend holiday were flawed.

This year’s Easter weekend statistics were compared to 2019, as opposed to 2020, when South Africa was in the middle of a hard lockdown.

Mbalula said that over the long weekend there had been 189 crashes recorded that had resulted in 235 fatalities nationwide. In Gauteng there were 30 accidents that caused 36 deaths.

This compared to 193 crashes and 260 deaths over Easter in 2019.

“This means that we have made headway in reducing the number of crashes in general and fatalities in particular. The number of crashes has been reduced by 2.1% while fatalities came down by 9.6%,” the minister said.

Such a marked decline in road deaths in a country were over 14 000 people die a year is unheard of. But it is the figure of 260 deaths in 2019 that the Automobile Associatio­n (AA) is puzzled over.

"There is no record of the 260, we went back to the annual report for 2019 and nowhere is this recorded. So to suggest that the figure is 9.6% down on 260 we can't comment on that," said Layton Beard, the spokespers­on for the AA.

Beard added that the AA had approached the Road Traffic Management Corporatio­n, (RTMC) and the ministry for clarity on the data. They hadn’t had a response.

Verified statistics were important,

Beard explained, for ensuring the proper allocation of resources and assessing the effectiven­ess of road safety awareness campaigns and policing.

However, the spokespers­on for the RTMC Simon Zwane said that 260 fatalities tally over the 2019 long Easter weekend is correct.

"We did an audit where we looked at other data sources and that audit indicated that we had under-reported," he explained, adding the results of this audit would be published as an addendum.

Zwane said that the RTMC had improved its data collection of road accidents.

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