Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has committed her department to creating a "reliable statistical databank" for road-related incidents, as part of the government's effort to better manage road safety and to meet its stated target of halving road fatalities by 2020.
Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters wants to draw accident information from sources other than the SAPS. Image: GCIS
SA's roads are some of the deadliest in the world with United Nations statistics from 2010 (the latest available) putting the country in sixth place. This is despite the government spending more than R100m a year on road safety campaigns.
On Wednesday (15 January), the Road Traffic Management Corporation released the preliminary road death statistics for the period between 1 December 12 January, covering the festive season. It recorded a total of 1,281 fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 1,537 people.
SA's road deaths are estimated at about 14,000 a year but some assessments put the number at possibly double that figure when the national mortuary statistics for unnatural deaths are factored in.
Data used by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's International Road Traffic and Accident Database show that SA's death toll in 2011 was 13,954. The database did not review the statistics provided as SA only joined the organisation in 2012 as an observer.
The data was supplied by the Road Traffic Management Corporation.
The death toll statistics for the latest festive season will be revised upwards after a month as SA has started following the international practice of recording car crash deaths up to 30 days after the accident occurs.
One of the greatest failings of SA's road death statistics is the reliance solely on the South African Police Service to file reports of unnatural deaths.
Road accidents killed at least 1,537 people over the festive season. Image: Road Safety
The transport minister said that her department would be working with other government departments as well as with civil society groups, to find the best way to collect information to address SA's road carnage.
Road safety campaigners and civil society groups have been calling for the state to look beyond police records of fatalities as these were not sufficiently reliable because of under-reporting.
These groups want the government to include statistics from hospitals and mortuaries.
Another shortcoming with the country's road safety statistics is that they measure fatal crashes only. Other accidents or causes of accidents go unrecorded and unreported.
Peters said that the department wanted a more detailed picture of what was happening on the country's roads and this would include details of all traffic incidents to better direct the state's limited enforcement to resolving the road deaths.
The International Transport Forum said earlier this week that countries were realising the importance of drawing accident information from sources other than police reports, for example, from hospitals. These were overwhelmingly the primary source for this type of information globally.
Source: Business Day via I-Net Bridge