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September 13th, 2017 by

This year’s Easter period saw an increase of 51% in road fatalities.

Some of the deadliest accidents recorded occurred in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. Natal alone saw an increase of 111% in speeding, seatbelt, overloading and alcohol-related deaths. The Northern Cape saw a staggering 175% increase.

Ishmael Mnisi, spokesperson of the Transport department, stated that passengers made up the largest percentage of casualties in these accidents. This is likely due to the bus strike resulting in commuters seeking alternative transport and the high rate of mini bus crashes.

Most of these accidents occurred in residential areas between midnight and 5am.

This past weekend saw seven fatalities on Western Cape roads and an Audi taking flight down Rivonia Road in Sandton – smashing into a sign post. The list goes on and on.

It seems that whenever we drive to work, drive home or turn on the news, there’s a twisted heap of metal beside the road, only vaguely resembling somebody’s car. Why do we drive this way and what causes these horrific accidents?

We take a look at the Big 5 reasons…

1. Distraction

Most accidents boil down to one sole cause; human error. Whether you’re trying to eat your Big Mac or untangling your ear phones, there is no greater example of human error in action than distracted driving.

The biggest problem? Playing with your phone. The use of a cell phone while driving is considered the leading cause of road accidents in South Africa, responsible for as much as a full quarter. Using a phone while you’re behind the wheel is dangerous for a number of reasons. Whether it be for texting, talking or using your GPS.

According to a road safety report by the International Transport Forum – 75% of all motorists admit to using their phone while driving.

Let’s say you spend 60 seconds using your phone. If you’re driving at 60km/h, this is equal to driving completely ‘blind’ for one kilometre. This makes you, the driver, four times more likely to be involved in an accident. Spend a little time on the autobahn that is the N1 highway and you’ll know – people drive a lot faster than that, and most of them aren’t even looking up.

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2. Drinking

According to the South African Police Service (SAPS) website, your blood may not have an alcohol content of more than 0.05%. For many people, this means that one beer could already put you over the limit. For those who have an unreasonably high tolerance to alcohol, such as the people living in the West Rand, it depends on a number of factors.

1l Klipdrift, 2l Coke, 3l Cortina – as the Krugersdorp saying goes.

First and foremost, South Africans have adopted the wrong attitude toward this. We gauge our ability to drive drunk based on how much we’ve had to drink, what we’ve had to drink and our supposed tolerance levels. We should be saying; one drink is one too many.

Alcohol, after all, impairs your driving ability. We feel more relaxed, and therefore may become drowsy and doze off, doing 120km/h down Witkoppen. Alcohol slows eye muscle function and alters eye movement and visual perception. Our reflexes slow down, reducing our reaction time. Poor eye/hand/foot coordination follows. It decreases your positioning ability and hinders the ability to make rational decisions.

We’ve all made appalling decisions while drunk. Why would you want to make them behind the wheel of a car?

3. Speeding

Drive like lightning, crash like thunder. That’s something which has been drilled into us since childhood. Speed kills. It may sound like a cliché, but speeding has and always will be one of the leading causes of accidents on the road.

The ideas behind a speed limit are all simple. Speed drastically reduces the time available to stop or avoid a collision, as well as extending the distance your vehicle travels while you react. You see now, how the window closes. The chance of you avoiding a high-speed crash grows smaller and smaller.

Most importantly, speed increases the severity of a crash once it occurs.

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4. Reckless / Negligent Driving

Drivers who speed, change lanes too quickly (shooting a gap) or tailgate cause an alarming amount of fatal car accidents. You know these people, the impatient, aggressive type. They sit right on your bumper all the way down the highway, flashing their lights and giving you the finger.

There’s no actual emergency – they’re just allowing their ego to do the driving. They run red lights and stop signs without looking and end up T-boning an old lady’s Uno in the middle of the intersection. They perform unsafe lane changes without checking their blind spots or using their indicators.  Some even overtake on a blind rise or in the face of oncoming traffic.

Red means stop, and you should always check both left and right before proceeding into an intersection. Likewise, inexperienced drivers such as teenagers also pose a problem on the road.

The old folk like to say – it is one thing being aware of what you are doing. It’s the other people you really need to worry about.

If only it were that simple. Constant vigilance is required when operating 1800kg of high-speed metal.

5. Pedestrians

While bad weather, slippery roads and heavy winds certainly pose a problem, the last spot goes to pedestrians. Last year, 5410 of the 14071 fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 3601 drivers and 4608 passengers.

Pedestrians often take chances, dashing across busy roads where they shouldn’t. They seldom make the effort to make themselves more visible to drivers, especially at night. These are the main factors involved when it comes to pedestrian fatalities on the road.

Others include texting-and-walking (distracted walking), lack of children supervision (children who run into the road) and drunken Capetopians and their papsaks falling out into the road in front of cars.

Traffic fines seem to be geared towards the motorist having to take responsibility for the pedestrian, but the latter also needs to be more accountable. The road is a dangerous place, and every time you wander out into the middle of it, you’re taking a risk. Left, right and left again is something we’ve forgotten how to use.

Cyclists, of course, have their own category. 451 cyclist fatalities were reported in 2016.

Read more about who is the best and who is the worst insurance company in South Africa
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How To Avoid Accidents

Being proactive is far more beneficial than being reactive.

Inspect your vehicle for problems before leaving the house. Leave your Facebook alone while you’re driving. Map your GPS routes before you begin your journey. Focus on what you’re doing. Focus on what other drivers are doing. Be courteous and respectful. Do not drink or do drugs before or during your journey. Wear your safety belt. Stay below the speed limits. Keep a safe following distance – at least one car’s length. Be aware of your surroundings. Use your indicators. Check your blind spots. Check before crossing the road.

Don’t be an idiot. Arrive alive.


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  • Francois Engelbrecht

    You forgot one (actually a few) that is a huge factor: People who bought their licenses because they fail the tests.

    • Zahira

      Talking about people that bought their licences. This morning i was driving behind a white lady which i surely think did not buy her licence. I was checking my rear view mirror and with a slight wink (this is when and indicator like flash once) she changed into my lane. Last, i check you flash your indicator for a while to indicate your intention. Was driving behind her for a while and noticed that she really disregarded all traffic laws. Did not indicate (this was after my incident), drove on the painted island and speeding. So you tell me? I think it more a case of “monkey see, monkey do”.

      • Francois Engelbrecht

        I don’t think it’s a race or gender thing or any monkey type of analogies should be used. All those are very sensitive topic’s and you should guard against letting you question or comment get diluted with people climbing onto the political bandwagon.

        Zahira, I spent lots of time on the road between customers etc and there is arrogance and ignorance in most people’s actions on the roads. If I had to comply 100% to the rules of the road I will be hooted and cursed at due the state of current “excepted” behavior already entrenched in motorist.

        Our roads are lawless but instead of law enforcement trying to rectify it it has become a money making scheme and as you know not always even in the legal way (bribe’s). Although I agree with the intent of the article I think we need to rather focus on the real issues why our roads are dangerous at best. Unlicensed drivers, fake licensed drivers, roadworthy vehicles, blatant disregard to emergency lanes, skipping traffic lights and stop streets, speeding, overloading, drivers pushed to drive way longer than their concentration levels can handle. Bring protect and serve back vs money making quotas.

  • Awake Asleep

    Surely, these are not causes of accidents, but the causes of collisions. An accident is defined as “ unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” Therefore, when considering aspects such as drink driving, speeding, etc. these are intentional and therefore cannot be construed as the cause of an accident, It is time that we start appreciation that collisions are not accidents and that culprits should be dealt with stricter BEFORE they cause collisions.

  • Johan Groenenberg

    Agree with many points mentioned here, but fail to see how wearing your seatbelt can prevent an accident or collision. The article should read Collisions and not accidents. Awake Asleep, your definition is correct. Collisions can be prevented, most accidents can’t.