Driver solidarity – instances where drivers warn each other about road blocks – prevents traffic officers from effectively doing their jobs and saving the lives of many road users.
These were the sentiments expressed by Transport Minister Blade Nzimande on Thursday as he released the preliminary festive season road safety campaign status report.
Nzimande condemned and discouraged acts of driver solidarity as in the long run they caused more harm than good.
“We urge drivers to desist from alerting other drivers on law enforcement activities by our officers on the roads. When you see a road block, don’t start flickering to drivers approaching the very same roadblock as a way of warning them because in essence you are actually party to accident death on the road,” he said.
According to Nzimande, the element of surprise was important in catching out those who broke the laws of the road.
“I also wish to condemn those who use social media to undermine law enforcement activities on the road. There is a Facebook page in different areas focusing on warning people about road blocks,” he added.
“As a result of all these driver solidarity acts, we are not able to catch transgressors, such as people without driver’s licences or those who drive recklessly.”
Nzimande, however, said there were a few law abiding road users who were doing good work.
“I wish to specially recognise and applaud all those road users who obey the rules and regulations on road safety, whether they are drivers, passengers or pedestrians,” he said.
This comes after an Intercape bus driver was caught on camera by a passenger as he attempted to overtake two trucks, driving for at least 500 metres on the oncoming traffic lane, during a trip from Cape Town to Durban.
“My attention has been brought to the suspension and disciplinary charges against a driver of one of the Intercape buses who was overtaking on a barrier line,” Nzimande said.
The festive season Road Safety Awareness Campaign was launched on the N1 between Mokgopong and Kranskop on November 18 and Nzimande’s report focused on statistics between December 1 and December 18.
Nzimande said he was extremely concerned about the high number of public and freight transport vehicles involved in fatal crashes so far this festive season.
“A total number of 34 minibus vehicles have been involved in fatal collisions since the start of the festive season while 44 trucks were involved in deadly collisions,” he said.
“Fatal crashes had a high number of occupants and with most crashes occurring between 7pm and 8pm and between 10pm and 11pm. Since 1 December, the majority of crashes happened on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” he added.
Light motor vehicles contributed 47% to the total crashes followed by light delivery vehicles at 21% and minibus vehicles at 7% and trucks 5%.
At least 767 people have been killed on South African roads since the start of the festive season.
“Since the beginning of our heightened road safety programme, we have 44 fatalities from crashes involving five minibus taxis and trucks,” Nzimande said.
“Minibus operators must consider having two drivers to relieve each other during long distance journeys to avoid fatigue. This is a small price to pay to avoid the untold misery and pain,” he added.
From the more than 356 roadblocks conducted throughout the country between December 1 and December 18, about 326 642 fines were issued by traffic officers, most of which were for drivers who did not have a driving licence.
The preliminary report showed that road fatalities had increased in all provinces except for Gauteng which recorded a 10% decrease.
“The highest percentage increase was recorded in the Northern Cape province with 71%, followed by Free State with 53% and Kwa-Zulu Natal with 46%,” Nzimande said.
The total number of fatalities during the festive season so far reflect a 16% increase compared to the previous period where a total of about 14 050 people died.