ROELOF van den Berg | The road to tackling South Africa's high fatality rates - GIC

ROELOF van den Berg | The road to tackling South Africa’s high fatality rates
December 28, 2023

The festive season has arrived, yet one pressing issue continues to dampen our holiday cheer: the country ’s infamously high road fatality rate.

In the six week-period during 2022/23 festive season alone, a staggering average of 40 people lost their lives every day on SA’s roads, of whom 41% were pedestrians – nearly double the global average.

SA is home to the 10th-largest road network in the world, which stretches about 750,000km. Given the extensive reach of this network, ensuring road safety remains a significant challenge.

But while the overwhelming majority of accidents remain the result of human error, the design and construction of roads are also key to improving road safety and eliminating all traffic fatalities.

Notably, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), jay walking remains the single greatest contributory factor in accidents involving pedestrians, accounting for around one in three of all road-related fatalities.

So, to address the critical issue of pedestrian deaths, infrastructure developers must incorporate formal foot paths and pedestrian crossings into designs. Additionally, leading infrastructure developers actively encourage public participation in all road projects, as these provide vital insights into the needs of local communities and how they will use the road network.

Through this participation process, developers can play a role in educating communities on road safety and improving pedestrian behaviour. Another major contributor to accidents in SA is speeding.

But, through meticulous planning and best design practices, professional infrastructure developers can reduce risky behaviour and encourage sensible driving with speed-calming measures.

Through employing advanced engineering techniques and materials, developers can further help to manage dangers such as wet or slippery road surfaces, which remain the greatest environmental risk to road users.

For instance, developers can implement robust storm water management and drainage systems with hard-wearing materials that are resistant to water damage, reducing long-term maintenance costs while lowering the threat of flooding.

Among the other top 10 contributing factors to road fatalities in SA listed by the RTMC are head-on collisions, poor road visibility and substandard road surfaces. However, the risk of accidents diminishes significantly where infrastructure developers work to manage roadside hazards like trees or fixed objects, physically separate opposing traffic and promote visibility for all motorists and road users.

For example, developers can employ high quality illuminated paint for lane separation and directional signs, along with durable road studs and textured speed humps that are specifically designed for night time travel.

Ultimately, a multi-faceted approach is imperative to curbing road fatality rates. Through the proactive efforts of infrastructure developers in collaboration with public partners, we can realise the dream of a zero road-fatality future, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all road users.

Roelof van den Berg
Roelof van den Berg