Festive Season road deaths spike | Western Cape Government


Festive Season road deaths spike

28 February 2018

Festive Season road deaths spike amidst increase in driver and passenger fatalities

Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works 

This past December 2017/January 2018 festive season has been one of the more challenging yet, with our traffic officers having to contend with various operational difficulties including high traffic volumes and congestion, unseasonal heat, and errant driver behaviour. Thousands of vehicles flooded the province as holiday makers made their way to their various destinations. Amidst all the activity, however, our dedicated and hard-working Provincial and Municipal Traffic Services, our Safely Home team, and all of our road safety partners were hard at work to make our roads safer over this notoriously dangerous time.

As with any other busy period on our roads in each calendar year, all our joint road safety efforts and interventions have continued to be guided by an information-based strategy, that continues to make our roads safer, and lessens the number of lives lost senselessly as a result of reckless and irresponsible road use.

As we plan and implement what we believe to be sound road safety practices, we continue to draw valuable lessons from festive seasons past, which we believe continue to save many lives that would otherwise be senselessly lost on our roads. Our approach remains focussed, dedicated, and informed, while using all available information and emergent trends to guide the decisions we take and the strategies we adopt.

Together with the citizens of the Western Cape we continue to prioritise safety on our roads. This has resulted in some successes in our fight against the scourge of road deaths in this province.

While this past festive season recorded an overall increase in road deaths compared to the previous period (2016/2017), the lessons learnt have been invaluable, and will continue to guide us as our approach to road safety evolves. There is still a lot of work that must be done to make our roads safer.

The festive season is measured from 1 December 2017 to 31 January 2018.

This past festive season saw a 6% increase in overall fatalities (up from 248 to 268). Increases were recorded in the number of driver deaths (up from 39 to 57 this past festive season), and passenger deaths (up from 74 to 82). Pedestrian deaths, which are the leading category of road deaths in the province and an area of focus for our various interventions, saw a 7% decrease from 111 deaths in 2016/2017, to 104 deaths in 2017/2018.

Comparative Festive Seasons breakdown:

1 December 2016 to 31 January 2017

Road User Deaths
Cyclist  4
 Driver 39
Fell off Vehicle 4
M/Cyclist 12
Other 4
Passenger 74
Pedestrian 111
TotalRoad User 248


1 December 2017 to 31 January 2018

Road User Deaths
Cyclist 0
Driver 57
Fell off Vehicle 4
M/Cyclist 12
Other 3
Passenger 82
Pedestrian 104
Total 262


Of the total 262 fatalities recoded over this past festive season, most were recorded in the Cape Town Metropole area. Our awareness initiatives are specifically targeted to areas where the most incidents occur.

Safely Home activities over the Festive Season

As with all busy holiday periods, one of the main things authorities must watch out for is the scourge of drinking and driving (as well as drinking and walking). Alcohol and road use simply don’t mix, as is evidenced by the significant role that alcohol continues to play in a majority of crashes that we see on our roads. The consumption of alcohol, even in relatively small amounts, increases the risk of being involved in a crash for motorists and pedestrians. Not only does alcohol impair processes critical to safe road use, such as vision and reaction time, it is also associated with poor judgement and so is often linked to other high-risk road use behaviours such as speeding or not using seat-belts.

Our roads safety initiative, Safely Home, will be running festive-season long awareness campaign under the theme “Alcohol and Roads Don’t Mix”, with the hashtag #BoozeFreeRoads. The campaign will specifically target adults who are the ones most likely to drink and drive, or drink and walk. 

Approximately R2.4 million was spent on media aimed at raising awareness during December and January.

Roughly one third was spent on each of digital, radio and Out of Home advertising. This was allocated to online ads, social media post promotion, anti-alcohol radio spots and digital screens in pubs, taverns, public transport interchanges, rail stations and garage forecourts. We ran Boys (DUIs and RBT), Ubuthakathi (pedestrians and alcohol), and promoted the activities of the five RBT units currently active in the Province.

We also spent around R300 000 on 16 Days of Activism, launching and promoting a new content piece called #ManUpSlowDown which ran during the 16 Days.

In January, we also launched RBT “Just Around The Corner”, and RBT “Any time. Anywhere. Anyone”, which shows images of RBT operations in a particular area to locals via social media and digital screens in pubs and taverns in those same areas. We believe that this targeted communication will help raise the perception of risk and interception. We do conduct our RBT operations anytime, anywhere, and on anyone. We want people to know that an operation could be happening right around the corner from where they are, at any given moment.

Statistics have shown that over 40% of drivers killed on Western Cape roads, who were tested for alcohol, were blood alcohol content (BAC) positive. The problem of alcohol consumption and road use is one that demands our urgent attention, and was the focus of our awareness efforts throughout this past festive season.

The campaign is still live on the Safely Home website, www.safelyhome.westerncape.gov.za, twitter: @WCGovSafelyHome hashtag #BoozeFreeRoads, and is supported by radio advertisements on various leading radio stations, and VMS message board messages on busy highways. #BoozeFreeRoads is specifically targeted at both motorists and pedestrians, with drinking and road use (driving and walking) proving to be a deadly combination on our roads.

We have made every effort to maximise the reach of the campaign and have increased awareness around the dangers of mixing alcohol with roads. We hope that more and more people are beginning to think differently when it comes to how they conduct themselves on our roads, and are opting to act responsibly rather than behaving recklessly and dangerously.

Provincial Traffic Enforcement efforts over the Festive Season

The Western Cape Government made every effort to ensure safe roads over the festive season. Our Provincial and Municipal traffic officers worked hard to ensure efficient and effective enforcement across the province, particularly in hotspot areas where incidents have been known to occur. Our operational objectives have been to:

  • Promote a safe and reliable road user environment on our road networks.
  • Prevent all possible loss of life and road user crash fatalities.
  • Regulate pedestrian behaviour and reduce fatalities.
  • Encourage voluntary road user compliance during the festive season.

Operations over the festive season were squarely focussed on:

  1. Driving under the influence of alcohol
  2. Excessive speed
  3. Average Speed Over Distance (ASOD)
  4. Driver Fatigue management
  5. Driver/vehicle fitness
  6. Distracted driving
  7. Pedestrian safety
  8. Seatbelt compliance 
  9. Inter provincial operations
  10. Licence plates
  11. Safe following distances
  12. Transportation of illegal substances/illicit cigarettes

 This past festive season, together with all the other enforcement technology innovations that we have implemented in the past (like the Average Speed Over Distance camera enforcement system, and the hand-held devices assisting officers on the field), we made use of mobile vehicle weighing equipment that was deployed in areas where it was needed most, as well as our brand new Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Unit which is a partnership project between the Department of Transport and Public Works, the SAPS, and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). We were able to deploy the Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Unit strategically based on need.

Key partnerships with the SAPS, Municipal traffic authorities and the Metro Police, the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town, SARS, the NPA, SANRAL, the RTMC, and our various media partners, have been essential to the success of our operations over the festive season, and will be key to all future endeavours.

Enforcement activities from 1 December 2017 to 31 January 2018:

  • 729 traffic law enforcement operations, with a total of 231 469 vehicles stopped, checking for things such as overloading, fatigue, and alcohol.
  • 417 K78 roadblocks were conducted where 90 794 drivers were screened for alcohol, while 81 496 vehicles were weighed at either the fixed or mobile weighbridges.
  • 131 Random Breath Testing (RBT) operations were conducted.
  • A total of 511 speed operations were conducted.
  • Ghost Squad operations stopped and checked a total of 4498 vehicles, affecting a total of 28 arrests for various transgressions.
  • A total of 594 arrests were affected over the period 1 December 2017 to 31 January 2018, predominantly for drink driving.

The lessons we continue to learn as enforcement authorities from this past festive season, and other busy periods, continue to inform our approaches and interventions for the future. We will continue to make use of our limited resources strategically, to yield the most optimal results for the people of the Western Cape.


 As we shift our focus towards the upcoming Easter period, we will draw from our successful intervention of the past and continue to be innovative in our approach to save lives on our roads. While the number of road deaths in the province remains high, we maintain our commitment to saving more and more lives though our enforcement and awareness efforts.

Through our Safely Home campaign, we have continued to raise awareness, change behaviour, and make a noticeable difference to the carnage on our roads. I must commend our enforcement officers who work tirelessly and for long hours to ensure safety on our roads. Our men and women in blue continue to be the unsung heroes in our efforts to save lives on our roads; I am proud of the work that they do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Our statistics, and responses to our campaigns, continue to show a gradual change in behaviour and attitudes towards road safety amongst road users in the province. Together, we are continuing to make our roads safer, and are seeing an increased number of citizens take responsibility for their lives, as well as the lives of others.

 We offer our sincere thanks to all our enforcement officers who spent the season on the roads saving lives, and to the many citizens of this province who are just as committed as we are to making our roads safer. We will continue to work hard, day and night, to ensure that fewer and fewer lives are lost senselessly as a result of reckless and irresponsible road use.

Media Enquiries: 

Siphesihle Dube
Spokesperson for the Minister of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant
Cell: 084 233 3811
Tel: 021 483 8954
Fax: 021 483 2217
E-mail: Siphesihle.Dube@westerncape.gov.za