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There's always that one person at a party that ruins it for everybody. In South Africa, that person is the drunk driver, the reckless driver, the lawless heathen of a driver, the arrogant driver, the distracted driver and the impatient driver. Don't feel bad – we've all fallen into one of these categories at one time or another – but if you're one of those people who frequently flouts the rules of the road and drives like a brainless troglodyte – then I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you're that person at the party who pukes in the washing machine.
Thanks to these people, who go about causing wholesale death and destruction on our roads each and every day, the Road Traffic Management Corporation is proposing a complete overhaul of South Africa's testing and driving regulations.
As if the impending demerit system wasn't quite enough. Let's take a look at the five biggest changes being stabled, in an effort to stem the bloodshed.
The festive season – or any holiday season really – is a grim time for motorists in South Africa. Only a small fraction of the cars passing by you on the road are being operated by somebody who is actually sober, undistracted, rational and paying attention. Now, that's a distressing thought, knowing that you're risking your life each and every time you get into your car, but it also helps us understand why the vehicular carnage in this country may require action as drastic as the AARTO Bill, or what is yet to come.
Over 767 people lost their lives on our roads this last December. This is a 16% increase in road fatalities compared to the previous year, with KwaZulu-Natal claiming 162 lives, Gauteng 125, Eastern Cape and Limpopo 89, Mpumalanga 82, Western Cape 81, the Free State 78 and North West 57.
The Northern Cape, though seeing the least amount of fatalities (24), saw the highest increase in crashes causing death (71%).
86% of all fatal incidents can be attributed to human error. The drunk. The reckless. The lawless. The arrogant. The distracted. The impatient. The people at the party who arrive without bringing anything, bum cigarettes off of other people all night, and then kill somebody.
Road and vehicle faults account for less than a seventh of all traffic collisions, and in most cases, it's because the vehicle hasn't been properly maintained.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the scourge of the city – the minibus taxi – with 34 being involved in fatal accidents last year, and probably causing hundreds more. The terror of the open road, the trucks, caused 44 collisions in 2018.
But wait, I hear you say that we don't need more rules and regulations, we don't need stricter repercussions for our terrible, selfish behaviour – what we need is more policing. While that may be the answer, consider the following:
Hit-and-run is on the rise (+17%), Speeding is on the rise (+14%) and Reckless Overtaking is on the rise (+10). 10 666 fines were issued to drivers who did not have a drivers licence. 9620 fines were issued to drivers who weren't wearing a safety belt.
While more effective policing is certainly needed, at some point we all need to take responsibility for what we do on the roads. We need to stop and ask ourselves, am I driving like a complete moron? And am I driving like a moron because that other person over there is driving like a moron – have I fallen into that monkey-see monkey-do trap? Am I in control of my mind and body, and therefore this vehicle? Do I want to be a part of the solution, or am I going to continue causing problems until the consequences come home to haunt me?