Provincial engagement on the development of the National Road Safety Strategy
Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
- Chairperson, Chief Director Kenny Africa
- Head of Department, Ms Jacqui Gooch
- Ms Thandi Moyo from the National Department of Transport
- Representatives from both the Western Cape Government and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC)
- Representatives of SANTACO
- Invited road safety partners and stakeholders
- Invited guests
- Ladies and gentlemen
- Good morning, goeie more, molweni
Thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning and to make some opening remarks before what will be a very important interaction around the National Road Safety Strategy, which will ultimately guide our collective approach to road safety moving forward.
Allow me to begin by painting the very grim national picture that makes this interaction so crucial. The Medical Research Council estimates that more than 17 000 people are killed each year nationwide. The National Department of Transport has estimated a staggering annual cost in excess of R300 billion, for loss of earnings and the cost to the state of picking up the pieces. This is more than 8% of our GDP, and rising. The ongoing costs of road trauma are enormous, both here in the Western Cape, and across the country. All of us are painfully aware that these costs do not reflect the indirect financial losses our society suffers from the death and injury to business owners, key employees, parents, children, loved ones, and ever-spiralling health, life and vehicle insurance premiums.
Nor do they reflect the costs of already strained road networks shut down for hours, even days, by completely avoidable crashes.
In the Western Cape, we have striven to tackle this issue head-on. In some ways, our results have been spectacular. We saw a 30% decrease between 2008 and 2013. Since then, however, our growing efforts have seen little change beyond our fatality levels remaining stable in the face of continued rapid expansion in human and vehicle populations. Truly, a difficult road lies ahead.
Our approach to road safety, however, remains a holistic one which, like all successful road safety interventions across the world, comprises not only of traffic law enforcement, but education, engineering, and constant evaluation too. In recent years, these efforts have been modified to emulate Australia’s Safe Principles approach to road safety (safe speeds, safe people, safe roads, safe vehicles), which has been credited with their known successes in reducing the carnage on their roads. We will notice that the focus on safe and secure roads has been a running theme in previous engagements that have brought us to this point, and should form the cornerstone of our approach.
In South Africa, however, the ‘safe people’ element of the approach is precisely what we struggle with the most. Changing errant road user behaviour in this country has proven to be a real obstacle, exacerbated largely by the absence of tough, biting consequences for traffic law violators that serve as a clear deterrent for the rest of the populace. This is an area we must interrogate as a matter of urgency in this country, with all of the gains we collectively hope to achieve, hinging on this very important issue.
International examples illustrate that dramatic change is possible provided that the interventions are appropriate and tailored to our circumstances and are backed by the political and collective will to ensure that our planned actions are carried through. This is the only way that we can start to see long lasting results and a sustained decline in our fatality rates.
There is no room or time for yet another plan gathering dust on shelves while people are dying on our roads in numbers which a greater year after year than those associated with some military action across the globe.
The Western Cape Government is determined to do everything within its power and jurisdiction to improve the situation. We are confident that we will have the support of the RTMC and the National Minister in doing so. Your visit here today is taken a sign of your support.
I trust that together, we can make our roads safer for the people of South Africa.
I thank you.