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Transport Minister recommits to road safety interventions

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said on Thursday that government would continue to uphold the various resolutions adopted at its October 2013 Road Safety Summit, which aimed to halve the number of fatalities on South African roads by 2020, but also appealed to individuals to exercise caution and restraint when using the country’s road network.

Speaking at the release of the preliminary 2013/14 festive season road death statistics, the Minister noted that, as a signatory of the United Nations’ 2011-2020 Decade of Action for Road Safety, the department would continue to deal with road safety issues related to education, engineering and enforcement.

Among the interventions committed to by government was improved road safety management, which involved the review of law enforcement officers, the adoption of revised national norms and standards, and the enforcement of regulation at a local, provincial and national level.

“In addition, the recruitment of more law enforcement officers will need attention. The 17 000 law enforcement officers in the country are not sufficient to police our 750 000 km of road network,” she held.

The Minister’s comments came as the department announced a drop in the number of fatalities over the period December 1 to January 7, from 1 558 in 2012/13 to 1 357 in 2013/14.

“However, this is still not good enough, as it is apparent that our local sphere of government has not assimilated the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety in their programmes and operations.

“The department, therefore, challenges our national transport agencies to work closely with provinces and local authorities to inculcate the significance of this initiative and commit them to working in tandem with national targets on road safety,” she said.

The department would also focus on ensuring safer roads and mobility through enhanced vehicle regulation and monitoring, through interventions such as the implementation of technology to monitor driver fatigue in commercial long-distance drivers, and the enforcement of regulated compulsory truck driver rest periods.

Peters further asserted that the South African Bureau of Standards and the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards “must” set minimum standards for vehicle fitness, most critically for vehicles transporting scholars.

Further attention would be paid to the development of pedestrian infrastructure, such as overhead bridges and sidewalks, as well as speed limit adjustments to 40 km/h in areas with high pedestrian traffic.

“We also intend to elevate the road law enforcement function to essential services status,” she commented.

In addition, the department was in the process of regulating driving schools to eliminate the “random and uncontrolled propagation of schools that exacerbated corruption and endangered lives”, and would intensify its efforts around ensuring the roadworthiness of vehicles.

Peters added that she was in constant consultation with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to incorporate road safety programmes into the national school curriculum, and planned to establish an educational summit aimed at educating the taxi industry on road safety.

ALCOHOL LIMIT

She further disclosed her department’s objective of introducing zero-alcohol tolerance legislation for drivers, saying this would reduce the number of alcohol-impaired drivers.

“This will mean that law enforcement won’t have to worry about whether you’ve had one glass of wine or two, it means that if you’ve had any, you’re over the limit,” she said.

The department had also been working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry on legislation to increase the responsibility of businesses with a liquor licence, Peters revealed.

“In my view, if you have a liquor licence, you’re responsible for the way in which people that use your product use the road,” she noted.

An outstanding proposal of the October meeting, but one which Peters was “ready to announce soon” was the formation of a Road Safety Advisory Council comprising experts in road safety and related services, as well as representatives from road safety councils, taxi associations and other road safety stakeholders.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn