Alcohol Abuse a Major Factor in Road Deaths among Young People
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, road safety partners, en die veilige gemeenskap van Belhar. It is my honour to be here today to celebrate Youth Day 2014; a day which has come to highlight the role that young people have played, and will play in building this great country of ours. To ensure that young people are able to reach their full potential and help to take this country forward, we must work together to rid our society of social ills, which far too many young people fall victim to daily. Notable of those ills are drug and alcohol abuse, the latter being what I would like to speak about today.
South Africa has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption rates in the world, with over 30% of the population said to be struggling with an alcohol problem or on the verge of having one. Alcohol has managed to creep into many aspects of ordinary South African life, and very often with the most disastrous of outcomes. Some of the most devastating results of excessive alcohol consumption can be found on our roads, which have become a daily scene of horror and death. You need only look at the country’s road crash statistics, of which alcohol is a leading cause, for an idea of the impact that alcohol abuse has on all South Africans. Even if you do not drive under the influence of alcohol, the chances that you are sharing the road with someone who is drunk are extremely high.
These are the realities that we experience on our roads, with young people amongst the most affected. Road crashes now account for millions of deaths around the world annually, with the World Health Organisation identifying road deaths as the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 29 years of age; these are disturbing statistics, and the focus of a large part of the work that the Western Cape Government does, through our Safely Home programme in the Department of Transport and Public Works, to make our roads safer for all those that use it.
The Horrific Facts about the effects of alcohol on road safety:
- Although the frequency of drinking and driving varies between countries, it is very high in South Africa and almost universally accepted to being a major risk factor for road crashes.
- Studies in low-income countries have shown alcohol to be present in between 33% and 69% of all fatally injured drivers.
- Drivers who have been drinking are at a higher risk of being involved in crashes than those that have no alcohol in their system, with the risk increasing rapidly with increasing blood alcohol content.
- Alcohol impaired drivers are 17 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than unimpaired drivers.
- More disturbing is that inexperienced young drivers driving over the limit are 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a crash than more experienced drivers.
Alcohol consumption on our roads remains the focus of our Traffic Law enforcement authorities, who just this past weekend alone, stopped 1 896 vehicles, screening 682 drivers and affecting 10 arrests for driving under the influence. We have been conducting these weekend alcohol blitzes since 2010, and believe that these efforts have contributed greatly, to the close to 30% reduction in road deaths that we have achieved in this province.
All road safety experts agree that in order to effectively tackle drunk driving that leads to death on our roads, we must:
- Have appropriate blood alcohol limits that are effectively enforced so as to deter would be offenders.
- Heighten awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving, and the increased chances of death on our roads.
We know that the battle on our roads can only be won through partnerships by government with groups such as the Global Road Safety Partnership, Safe Roads 4 Youth, ChildSafe, and all other groupings that share the same values and levels of commitment to reducing the carnage on our roads.
Winning this battle in ways that countries leading in road safety, like Australia, have been able to, will be the legacy that we will leave for generations to come. The burden that road crashes place on state resources, as well as the human costs, are astronomical. We must prioritise a drastic behavioural change amongst road users, and not allow this situation to continue unabated. Let’s make our roads Better Together, and ensure that we all get Safely Home. Laat ons, ons paie Beter Tesame maak, en verseker dat ons almal Veilig Tuis toe.