More than 1 400 people lost their lives on South African roads over the festive season, reflecting a slight 1.7% decrease compared to the previous year.
Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday at the Grasmere Toll Plaza on the N1 highway in Gauteng, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said 1 427 people died between December and January.
This is 25 fewer fatalities than in the previous period. There were 1 184 fatal crashes, indicating a 2.3% drop from the 1 212 incidents recorded in the previous year.
Chikunga stated that the majority of fatalities occurred among individuals aged 25 to 44, predominantly males, with 40.9% of the victims being pedestrians.
Human error is to blame
She said the peak period for accidents was from December 1 to 5, mainly between 7pm and 10pm, and stated that human factors contributed to over 80% of the crashes.
Of the nine provinces, five reported fewer fatalities. The Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo, and North West showed a decline.
Gauteng reported a 7.6% rise, and a 4.2% uptick was recorded in KwaZulu-Natal.
Notably, the minister said the Eastern Cape was the only province to exceed the targeted reduction in road fatalities during the reporting period.
Wet weather is a stumbling block
Chikunga underscored that heavy rains characterised the recent festive season, leading to many road-related challenges.
She stated that there were difficulties on the roads during the 2023–24 holiday season due to heavy rainfall and storms.
“Some drivers did not modify their speed in slippery and wet conditions, and that resulted in avoidable crashes,” she said.
While road fatalities nearly stabilised, there was a notable increase in traffic volumes during the holiday season, according to the minister.
The number of registered vehicles on the roads reached about 13.1-million at the beginning of the road safety campaign in December, marking a surge of 168 000 vehicles compared to the previous year.
Said Chikunga: “I wish to commend our traffic officers, members of the SAPS [SA Police Service], and emergency medical services for their sterling work, commitment, and dedication during this period.
“They sacrificed their family time and pleasure as they committedly enforced the law.”