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The Deadliest Roads In South Africa

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2019-08-11
Due to an astonishingly high volume of road fatalities, ten roads across South Africa have been prioritized for stronger law enforcement this month. Let's take a look at where these roads are, and what makes them so deadly.

Statistics have shown that deaths on South African roads increase significantly over long weekends and holiday periods. The abuse of alcohol, combined with frustration at traffic conditions and weariness after a long drive have been identified as key factors contributing to car crashes during these times.

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, it is estimated that one single death on the road represents an average loss of around R4.6 million to the economy, in terms of lost productivity and legal, medical and funeral costs. The burden is felt not only by the families, but also society.

A study conducted by the RTMC, as well as the CSIR (Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research), estimated that the cost of crashes to South Africa in 2018 amounted to around R166.2 billion. 

An analysis of these statistics has mercifully identified the roads and areas with the highest number of fatalities in South Africa.

Let’s take a look at the top ten deadliest roads.

The Deadliest Roads In South Africa

Leading into the long weekend that has just ended, the following ten roads were prioritised for stronger law enforcement, and, in keeping with the celebration of women’s month, female-led law enforcement operations will be conducted throughout the remainder of August to make these roads safer. 

A total of 254 people died on these ten roads in 2018, with human behaviour accounting for 90% of fatal crashes:

  • R71 Mankweng in Limpopo;
  • R573 Umhlanga in Mpumalanga;
  • N4 Nelspruit in Mpumalanga;
  • N2 Libode in Eastern Cape;
  • N1 Naboomspruit in Limpopo;
  • N2 Umkhomazi in KwaZulu Natal;
  • N2 Pongola in KwaZulu Natal;
  • N2 Idutywa in Eastern Cape;
  • R37 in Mecklenburg;
  • N3 Harrismith in the Free State.

South Africa is a beautiful country to travel, and we’ve even put together road-trip guides of our favourite stops in the past. While it would be an absolute shame to travel in fear, it’s always far better to be safe, to be aware of the surrounding risks, and to know where car crashes or hijackings tend to occur most frequently. If you’re uncomfortable risking these roads – especially at night, or when travelling alone – then it’s better to plan an alternative route, or map out your rest stops. 

The N2 highway, which features heavily on this list, runs primarily all along the Indian Ocean coast from Cape Town to Ermelo – from the Western Cape all the way to Mpumalanga – and while providing some breath-taking views as you pass charming little towns, problems arise (chiefly) when the South African road-trip favourite ventures inland. 

The more rural the journey becomes, the more dangerous – with the East London – Umtata – Kokstad stretch (referred to as the Highway to Hell) particularly notorious for deadly car crashes. At night, the road becomes difficult to see. There are far greater distances between rest stops. 

Driver fatigue, speeding, driving under the influence, negligent driving, bad traffic conditions and the sudden appearance of cattle are leading factors in deadly crashes. 

The N1 from Naboomspruit to Mokopane is also known for a high volume of car crashes. 

N2 And N3 To Receive Upgrades

Sanral is currently taking a break from trying to convince everybody that the e-toll project is a great idea, and has found some time to make a number of upgrades to two of South Africa’s busiest highways. 

R28 billion will be spent on improving the N2 and N3 in the coming months, which includes the addition of lanes and configuration to the busiest interchanges. 

Because it’s not only human error (such as speeding, driving negligently, driving without a safety belt or playing with your phone) that causes accidents – poor road design can contribute – Sanral’s upgrade programme will hopefully improve safety for all road users.  

In addition, Sanral will also be looking into implementing the following:

  • The use of noise-reducing asphalt mixes and concrete grinding techniques to reduce tyre noise;
  • The ironing out of dangerous curves and the redesign of unsafe intersections, as well as the realignment of parts of the N3, where steep grades cause crashes and congestion;
  • Stronger and smarter pavement designs to decrease deterioration;
  • The safety of motorists, pedestrians and non-motorised road users alike will be taken into consideration in the design and construction of the upgrades; 
  • The elimination of environmental risks, and moving over to more eco-friendly approaches. This, essentially, means that they will be transporting local flora – such as the protected bulbs and aloes growing along the N3 – to temporary nurseries until it is safe to return them to their original area. 

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