'10% reduction' in festive season road fatalities not the full picture

a truck that is driving down the road(C) Provided by CapeTalk

Road fatalities for the 2019/20 festive season showed a 10% drop compared to the previous year, according to the road safety report released by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday. But that's not the full picture says Howard Dembovsky, national chairperson of Justice Project South Africa (JPSA), a non-profit organisation working towards the improvement of road traffic law and its enforcement, as well as road safety in South Africa. RELATED: Festive road fatalities down by 10%, but speedsters remain a big problem

He says the minister is not being "altogether truthful" because the stats reflect a comparison between the preliminary figures for 2019/20 and the finalised figures for the previous festive season. Dembovsky explains the crucial difference:

Preliminary figures are people who die immediately at the scene of the crash and finalised figures include people who die in hospital up to 30 days later.

Howard Dembovsky, National chair - Justice Project South Africa

The JPSA chair also comments on the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto). The Aarto bill was signed into law in 2019 and is set to come into full effect in June this year.

It will see a new demerit system for drivers, where the accumulation of points for traffic infringements can result in the loss of a license. RELATED: 'Aarto bill there to create revenue, not to promote road safety' Mbalula has said the system will greatly improve safety on the country's roads and help reduce fatalities.

But Dembovsky says it's within the framework of current traffic law enforcement that Aarto should be viewed:

I think it's very ambitious to think suspending people's driving licenses is going to lead to a reduction in fatalities, because suspension on its own is going to have no effect if it's not policed properly and that's what we have as a problem at the moment.

Howard Dembovsky, National chair - Justice Project South Africa

He asks whether someone with a suspended license is necessarily going to be put off driving if the chance they'll be stopped and found out, is remote.

Traffic law enforcement policing is just simply not up to scratch

Howard Dembovsky, National chair - Justice Project South Africa

If you do not encounter a road block, you are going to continue to drive.

That is the South African psyche.

Howard Dembovsky, National chair - Justice Project South Africa

Dembovsky says having in future to check licenses electronically on the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS), will be a very different scenario to the current situation where a traffic officer will pull you over, look at your license card and then wave you on.

The driving license points demerit system is a complex issue and enforcing it is going to take a lot of manpower and it is going to take a lot of technology.

Howard Dembovsky, National chair - Justice Project South Africa

Listen to his argument in the audio below:

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