Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Anthony Sharpe takes a look under the hood and behind the eyes at the factors that really influence road safety.

Ever pass an old clanger whose shocks are rattling, belching smoke from the exhaust and wing mirror askance (or missing)? No doubt your first thought was “that old rust bucket is a bloody liability. It’s an accident waiting to happen”.

You might be right, but it turns out that when it comes to road safety, people matter much more in terms of what should be on the road (your eyes), and off it (you if you’ve been drinking).

But, you’re not alone in your thinking says Layton Beard of the AA. “While many South Africans may believe unroadworthy vehicles are responsible for road crashes, the reality is that human behaviour and poor driving habits are actually the bigger contributor.”

Beard cites data from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), which shows that there were 14 051 deaths on South Africa’s roads last year. Among these, 91 per cent were caused by driver behaviour, 5 per cent were related to road and environmental factors, with vehicle factors making up only 3 per cent – a  50 per cent decline from 2016.

“What this tells us is that while vehicles need to be in proper working condition and roadworthy, the mindset of drivers and the way they behave on roads needs urgent attention if the fatality numbers – and the number of annual crashes – are to decrease,” says Beard.

Alcohol plays an enormous part in the danger on our roads, says Angus MacArthur, director of Alcohol Breathalysers. He points to research conducted by the World Health Organization, which cites 58 per cent of road crash fatalities in South Africa are related to alcohol. And, he says it’s not just drivers who need to watch their intake.

“Those who die could be a driver under the influence of alcohol, a pedestrian under the influence of alcohol who is jaywalking, a cyclist under the influence of alcohol, or a passenger killed when the crash was caused by a drunk driver – any scenario on the road involving alcohol,” says MacArthur.

Everyone should know the rules of the road, but many road users don’t follow them. “Unfortunately many South African drivers believe they are excellent drivers and that the laws don’t apply to them. This is cause for great concern,” says Beard.

Image: ©Shutterstock - 564658834

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