“Passenger deaths declined from 41% to 35% compared to last year.”
The Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, released the preliminary stats for deaths on the road over the festive season this week. Officials were pleased with the 10% drop in fatalities compared to last year. A number of interesting facts can be noted about the preliminary findings.
Seatbelt use saves lives
Passenger deaths declined from 41% to 35% compared to last year. Maswanganyi believes this decline may be due to greater seatbelt use. The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, agrees that it is essential that every person who gets into a car must wear a seatbelt. “There is a misconception amongst many South African passengers that they do not need to wear a seatbelt as a rear passenger.
“Not only is it illegal to not wear a seatbelt, wherever you sit in a car, but it also puts all occupants in a car in serious danger. In a collision, back passengers can be propelled into the occupants in front of them with enough force to kill them. Tests conducted by the Institute for Highway Safety in the USA say that drivers with unbelted passengers are twice as likely to die in a crash, even if they are wearing their own seatbelt.”
Herbert says this is just one of the reasons why it is important to wear a seatbelt wherever you sit in a car. A recent event that MasterDrive attended also illustrated that many schoolchildren did not know how to even use a seatbelt. “As drivers we need to make a point to ensure every occupant is wearing their seatbelt before leaving. ‘Is everyone buckled up?’ should become every driver’s mantra before starting a journey,” says Herbert.
Drinking and driving drops
Another noteworthy drop in the statistics was a 44% reduction in arrests for drunken driving. While it is difficult to determine if the decline in arrests is echoed with a decline in the total number of drunken drivers, there were still more than 3 000 people arrested for drunken driving. “This number is still unacceptably high.
“With so many options and means to avoid driving under the influence, we need to question why so many people were still arrested for doing so. If you know you are going to drink make an alternate plan before you go to get home safely and if you drink more than you meant to, there are still many ways to get home without endangering yourself or others. We need to get to a point where drunken driving is completely unacceptable within our society.”
Herbert congratulates law enforcement bodies and South Africans for the 10% reduction. “If we continue to reduce this fatality rate by 10% each year, we get ever closer to not having one of the highest fatality rates in the world.”