980 dead as road deaths rocket

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By Karabo Ngoepe

The death toll on South African roads is skyrocketing daily, with head-on crashes and drunk driving blamed for most fatalities.

Four people were killed on Wednesday when a VW Polo and a Nissan bakkie collided head-on on the Pretoria road in Kempton Park and, in Cape Town, two police officers were killed when a driver, believed to have been drunk, went through a red traffic light and rammed into their van.

The impact of the crash flung Sergeant Glynnis Lorenzo, 38, and Constable Quinton Snell, 33, stationed in Parow, from their vehicle.

Both died at the scene, while the four occupants of the silver BMW that crashed into them sustained moderate to serious injuries.

Police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said Lorenzo and Snell were on a visible-policing patrol when they were killed.

CULPABLE HOMICIDE

He said the BMW driver, who had been hospitalised following the crash, would be charged with culpable homicide, and reckless and negligent driving.

Van Wyk said a blood alcohol test had been performed on the driver.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation said it had noted an increase in head-on collisions; out of 17 fatal accidents where more than five people died, 11 were a result of head-on collisions.

“Even in the most modern vehicle, the chances of surviving a head-on crash at speeds above 70km/h are greatly reduced,” it worryingly noted.

From December 1 to December 23, a total of 980 people were killed in 817 crashes, and the final number could be as much as 1100 following another bloody long weekend on the roads. At least 11 people had died on the roads between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, the RTMC said.

VERY DANGEROUS EXERCISE

RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail said overtaking a vehicle on a two-way road was a “very dangerous exercise” by virtue of the fact that for the duration of the manoeuvre, the passing vehicle was in a dangerous position.

“Sometimes it could be because people are taking a blind chance - they are impatient, drunk, fatigued or because of poor driver training. People are unable to properly judge the speed and distance of an oncoming vehicle,” said Ismail.

He once again called on South Africans to buckle up in order to reduce fatalities on the road. He said that just as the country was urged to condomise and beat the scourge of HIV/Aids, the same needed to be done about road safety.

“If you buckle up there is a 30 percent immediate reduction in fatalities. We need South Africans to buckle up.”

UNROADWORTHY

Ismail said the RTMC monitoring team had noticed that one of the major problems was unroadworthy trailers and caravans.

He said most of these trailers and caravans had underinflated tyres, were generally in a condition of disrepair, overloaded and unlicensed.

“A swaying trailer or caravan can cause a vehicle to be unstable, leading to loss of control, resulting in a crash. It is apparent from this festive season rush that many motorists simply pull a trailer or caravan from under a cover or garage and hook it up to a vehicle without checking its roadworthiness,” he said.

Ismail said the monitoring team had also come across a number of trailers that had been abandoned on the side of the road, especially on arterial routes, posing a danger to other road users.

THREE-SECOND SECOND RULE

“Drivers are also travelling too closely and not observing a safe following distance. Most rear-end collisions are caused by the vehicles following too closely.

“Drivers are urged to use the three-second rule to allow them sufficient space and time to avoid a hazard. If the weather conditions are poor, the following distance must be increased and headlamps switched on,” said Ismail.

Almost 360 000 vehicles had been stopped and screened so far, with 94 722 notices being issued, he reported. A total of 890 vehicles had been pulled off the road nationwide, with special attention being given to public transport.

The RTMC said 11 599 motorists had been tested for alcohol and 1112 found to be above the legal limit.

Acting chief executive Collins Letsoalo said designated drivers should be appointed, or taxis used, if people consume alcohol. - Additional reporting by Anna Cox. - The Star

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