This past April, Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi revealed that the Easter death toll had risen by a staggering 51% over the previous year. A total of 235 people died on the roads over the holiday break, adding to the 1 714 fatalities on the roads over Christmas, itself another increase. Despite promises from government to crack down and do more, the numbers keep going up.
Which surely raises the question: how can we urgently improve driver skills in both the commercial and private sector?
“Driver re-education is essential, and the current practice of issuing a licence is insufficient,” says Zake Sondiyazi, a manager at the Business for Road Safety Forum (BRS).
“We need an education campaign for motorists, to highlight the importance of respecting other road users,” he continues, “and to show the risks of selfish behaviour on the road. Note that racing drivers are in a very controlled environment, where the race track has no intersections, pedestrians and vehicles driving in the opposite direction, and yet, every race has only one winner! Why are we then driving on public roads to ‘win the race’ against everyone else, a race where the competitors are not even aware that we contest to be first at the next intersection?”
The BRS is a recent initiative, set up in 2014 by the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) in collaboration with the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, the Road Freight Association, Business Against Crime South Africa and the Automobile Association, among others. The goal is to find sustainable solutions to reducing accidents and fatalities on the roads.
The BRS advocates that drivers should be more strictly managed, and law enforcement should continue with visible policing to change behaviours.
For commercial drivers, the increasing use of on-board GPS and telematics systems, which gather real-time data about driving conditions and behaviour, could be used not just for fleet management, but as a way to examine and improve driver skills.
Grant Fraser, the commercial director for MiX Telematics Africa, explains: “It’s about management not only taking an active approach to understanding the business driver’s landscape, but also taking an active approach to better managing such behaviour. Training programmes that use incentives to reward drivers for responsible behaviour on the roads also have good results in terms of modifying driver behaviour.”
One thing on which everyone agrees is that the current state of affairs is unsustainable.
“In short? There needs to be wholesale change in the mindset of drivers and those managing law enforcement,” concludes Sondiyazi.