Lives lost on our roads remembered on UN World Day of Remembrance
Below is a speech delivered this morning (20 November 2017) by the Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, at a World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims event hosted by South Africans Against Drink Driving (SADD) at Milnerton High School this morning.
The day has been declared by the United Nations (UN), and is commemorated annually on the third Sunday of November - to remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are also affected. It is also a Day on which we thank the emergency services and reflect on the tremendous burden and cost of this daily continuing disaster to families, communities and countries, and on ways to halt it.
More information can be found on: https://worlddayofremembrance.org/
Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
Caro Smit, Founder and Director of South Africans Against Drink Driving, delegates from other organisations, special guests, victims and families and friends of victims as well as representatives of the many wonderful services which come to the aid and support of victims – welcome to you all. I am humbled by the invitation to bring a short message from the Western Cape Government on this very important occasion. Thank you for including me, as Minister of Transport, this morning.
We have recently witnessed scenes from across the world of societies pausing to acknowledge the sacrifices made by millions during the two so-called World Wars. People gathered in their thousands as Heads of State, military leaders and sections of the armed forces paid their respects in a host of appropriate ways – the laying of wreaths, the making of speeches, fly-pasts and gun salutes.
This is fit and proper and we need to honour the fallen with dignity and sincerity.
However, we need formally to remember with equal dignity and sincerity the many people who die or are maimed as a result of what all too often are seen as mere collateral damage resulting from millions of people going about the business of life – diseases, natural disasters, industrial accidents and road crashes. We read the huge numbers and our senses are easily numbed. But every single victim is so much more than a statistic. He or she is a real live person – a son, a daughter, a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a relative, a friend.
And it is this keeping of memories alive which is encouraged and made possible through the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. This is the day of formal remembering, of the setting aside of time to recall those we have lost or those whose lives have been shattered by road crashes. Across the globe, in public and private spaces people are gathering as we are here this morning to honour the victims and to refresh their memories of them.
Just last Friday I was part of a presentation to the relevant Standing Committee of the WC Provincial Parliament of my department’s Integrated Festive Season Traffic Law Enforcement and Road Safety Operational Plan. As you will know, South Africa is a signatory to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety with its target of reducing global road fatalities by 50% by 2020. Locally, in the Western Cape, the Province has committed to two road safety targets, as follows:
- A reduction in road traffic mortality rates from 21:100 000 to 16:100 000 by 2019
- A reduction in child road traffic mortality rates from 11:100 000 to 7:100 000 by 2019 for ages 0 – 14.
In the WC we know where, when and how our road users are dying. We have identified the critical days and times over the Festive Season and we know that 70% of drivers who die in crashes on our roads test alcohol positive. We have identified the really hazardous routes.
Against this background we have identified key communication themes which are being distributed through all the means at our disposal – including dedicated electronic adverts which have won international recognition. Although the Operational Plan is already underway I will launch it formally on 5 December. For the first time in many years – after much legal and technical preparation – the officers on my department will again be using evidentiary breath alcohol testing. There are also detailed plans in place to manage fatigue, particularly within the long-distance taxi services and other public transport providers. Stretched targets have been set for traffic law enforcement targets, speed operations, drink driving operations, vehicle checks and weighbridge operations.
The Western Cape remains the only province in which traffic enforcement is carried out on a 24/7 basis.
However, we cannot operate in isolation and need the full cooperation and support of all the agencies and groups represented here in this hall today if we are to reduce the number of crashes and incidents.
While we cannot bring back the loved ones we have lost and miss so dearly and we cannot always restore to health those who have been injured and maimed, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the numbers of the victims are dramatically reduced.
Thank you for your presence here today.