We at SAIDI know, based on our professional driving instruction provided to:
1. New drivers.
2. Evaluations of drivers employed as Company drivers.
3. Evaluations of drivers undergoing rehabilitation after suffering some form of medical emergency.
The general standard of original driver training is shockingly low, almost across the board in South Africa.
We at SAIDI consider the following major factors to be the direct cause of road carnage in South Africa:
- Low driver training standards; bribery and corruption; some corrupt driving instructors, some corrupt examining officers; some members of the public demanding licences and willing to pay bribes.
- Poor, almost non-existent law enforcement; some corrupt law enforcement officials; badly documented cases being thrown out of court.
- Very bad attitudes; anarchy; rebellion against most laws and law keepers; aggressive, impatient driving; lawlessness;
- Un-roadworthy vehicles; uninsured vehicles;
In this very interesting article, while it deals with the whole gamut of factors influencing road crashes, we note with great concern that low standards of driver training have not been factored in.
This is where we at SAIDI come in. We were constituted to set standards in the driving school industry.
It is our responsibility to put excellent driving instructors on the roads. We are striving to do that through our efforts together with DOT, RTMC and QCTO.
The road ‘kill’ factor
Johannesburg – It has been projected that by 2020 road traffic deaths will have risen 60% worldwide and 80% in Africa.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that road traffic injuries will rank third among the causes of disability adjusted life years lost. The road traffic injury death rate is highest in Africa – 28.3 per 100 000 population compared with Europe’s figure of 11.0.
Another source claims there are 1.7 deaths per 10 000 vehicles in high-income countries which average 60 licensed vehicles per 100 inhabitants, compared with more than 50 deaths per 10 000 vehicles in low-income African countries – where a figure of less than one licensed vehicle per 100 inhabitants has been recorded.
Fleet growth is a contributing factor, perhaps explaining the 400% increase in road deaths in Nigeria between the 1960s and the 1980s.
Estimates are that in Africa 59 000 people died in road traffic crashes in 1990, and this figure will rise to 144 000 by 2020, a 144% increase. However, the same model predicts a 27% reduction in high-income countries.
Who is most at risk?
Twenty-four studies have shown pedestrians to be the most frequently injured road users in Africa, with the largest share of deaths in most countries – more than 40%.
Passengers are the second most vulnerable (more than 30% of road deaths) and drivers account for a small share of fatalities (less than 10%). Only Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe show driver deaths of more than 20%.
In developing countries males, in particular, become involved in road traffic crashes and account for more than 67% of those killed (females tend to have a higher percentage of pedestrian involvement).
More than 75% of road casualties are in the 16-65 age bracket.
Children are often injured as pedestrians.
Types of vehicles involved
Various studies show a higher crash involvement by buses, minibuses, lorries and trucks than cars. Pedestrians are often doubly at risk because they are most likely to also use these forms of transport.
Why road accidents happen
Reports show that most road crashes in Africa are due to:
Human error including speeding, perilous overtaking, alcohol and drug abuse, poor driving standards and driver distraction such as speaking on cellphones;
Vehicle overloading and poor maintenance;
Bad roads and terrain; and
Most studies rate the human factor as the highest contributor to road accidents. In a study among 23 European countries and in two African studies, vehicle factors came second, followed by environmental factors.
The human factor
According to South Africa’s transport department, in 2001 driver factors accounted for between 80% and 90% of road crashes and deaths; vehicle factors between 10% and 30%; and road environment factors between 5% and 15%.
Risk perception: “African perception of the risks of road traffic injury must be understood in order to be able to adapt and apply prevention campaigns that have proved successful elsewhere.”
Cultural influences may contribute, as another research report pointed out on the basis of results from the Ivory Coast where professional drivers expressed an especially high degree of fatalistic beliefs. A South African study found fatalistic beliefs in 16% of black and 21% of white drivers, and there was a significant relationship between non-fatalistic attitudes and seatbelt use.
South African taxi drivers showed largely fatalistic attitudes and expressed a high degree of risk-taking behaviour.
Excessive speeding: Data from police reports show speed as the leading cause of road traffic crashes, accounting for up to 50% of crashes, similar to results in high-income countries.
Alcohol and drug use: Studies in Africa showed that drivers had consumed alcohol in 33% to 69% of crashes in which drivers were fatally injured; and in 8% to 60% of crashes in which they were not fatally hurt.
In SA, almost 60% of fatally injured pedestrians had drunk alcohol. One study in a Durban hospital emergency unit found that drivers were most commonly intoxicated with alcohol while pedestrians often used both alcohol and dagga. Research by the transport department found that the national daily average of persons driving under the influence of alcohol increased from 1.8% in 2002 to 2.1% in 2003.
Lack of information/training/licences: The department found in a 2003 study that 16.5% of truck, bus and minibus taxi drivers had no driving licences. A study in Nigeria found that 38.8% of Nigerian commercial motorcyclists had no licences.
In SA, 89.2% of university students and 63.2% of Cape Peninsula high school students drove without licences.
Driver fatigue, stress and aggression: Commercial and public road transport drivers in African countries often work long hours and go to work exhausted. Truck drivers in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands work on average 16 hours a day. Falling asleep at the wheel is implicated in 24% of heavy-vehicle road accidents in SA.
Another study showed that professional drivers in SA are often guilty of aggressive driving.
Lack of seatbelt use: About 99% of drivers in Kenya and 50% in Nigeria did not use seatbelts. Use was lower among passengers, particularly rear passengers, and child restraints were hardly used.
Lack of helmet use: A 2004 research report showed that failure to use a helmet resulted in more severe injuries among riders of motorcycles.
What can be done?
Wider public education is necessary. Speed limits need to be strictly enforced and the use of traffic-calming strategies such as speed bumps and speed strips intensified. Setting and enforcing legal blood alcohol limits and minimum drinking-age laws, using alcohol checkpoints and running mass media campaigns are essential.
Mandatory seatbelt laws, public education on the benefits of seatbelts and legislation on the availability of functional seatbelts in vehicles are urged. Similarly, legislation and enforcement of the use of helmets are urged.
Provision of walkways, safe pedestrian crossings and traffic-calming measures would help protect pedestrians.
Passenger safety can be enhanced by protection of labour rights of bus and minibus drivers and by regulating their working hours. Speed should be checked by speed governors.
Some modification of road safety measures may be needed to ensure success in Africa.
– This is an edited extract from a chapter in Peltzer, K (in print) Road Use Behaviour in Africa; in Porter, BE (Ed) Traffic and Transportation Psychology, Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Professor Peltzer is a research director at the Human Sciences Research Council.