'Road deaths to be biggest killer'

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By Clayton Barnes

Cape Town - Road fatalities will soon overtake homicide, Aids and TB as the main cause of premature death in South Africa, says Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle.

Speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch in Observatory yesterday, Carlisle said 5700 people have died on the Western Cape’s roads since he became Transport MEC in 2009.

“These are huge figures,” Carlisle said. “Road fatalities will overtake homicide in the next two years, and then Aids and TB deaths as the main cause of premature death soon after that.”

Carlisle said that since 2009, his department, with the help of the media, has managed to bring down road deaths by 27 percent, from more than 1700 deaths in 2009 to 1321 deaths last year.

“There is no country in the world that has seen a reduction in road deaths over such a short period of time like we have,” he said.

“Drunk driving incidents – although still a problem – (have decreased). But the current focus is on moving offences. We see suicidal driving on our roads and it has to stop.

“Buckling up alone will shave 22 percent off current road death statistics. And adherence to the speed limit is also crucial.”

Asked whether he would be reducing the speed limit on highways, Carlisle said: “We won’t change the 120km/h speed limit, don’t worry. We want to enforce the existing speed limits.

“But in built-up areas, the speed limit is way too high. We can’t have 70km/h zones in Khayelitsha.”

Carlisle said drivers who broke the law faced weak punitive measures.

“We need to change this lack of consequences,” he said.

“Police management of crash scenes is appalling. We are seeing poor investigation by SAPS and very soft judgments.”

Carlisle said safer cars designed to go no faster than the speed limit were necessary to reduce the road death toll in future.

“Safer cars will be key in the future and this is not extra airbags or more advanced brake systems, but how fast they are,” he said. “However, we’ll have to bend the arms of the local motor manufacturing industry to change that.”

About the toll roads in Gauteng, Carlisle said: “The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Scheme will not be paid for by the road users of this province.” -Cape Argus

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