About 80 percent of the estimated 15 000 annual road-related deaths in South Africa are caused by people aged between 19 and 34.
Zahn Rijnen, junior mayor of the City of Tshwane, was addressing the high death toll due to motor vehicle crashes during a youth colloquium on road safety at the University of Pretoria on Monday.
She said youngsters aged between 16 and 19 were four times more likely to be in a car crash than an adult – the teenagers’ inexperience was the main cause of these statistics.
“However, young people are not the only culprits – we need to reverse a little bit,” she said.
“From birth until age 17 when people begin learning how to drive on their own, children are observational learners,” she said.
It was safe to assume that 17 years of observational learning would make an impact, she said.
She had personally seen adult drivers accelerate at yellow traffic lights, run red lights, pass vehicles on the left, drive while drunk, speeding and texting or talking on cellphones while driving, she said.
“The solution is two-fold. Sustained enforcement of road rules and road safety should be implemented in the school curriculum,” Rijnen said.
Burry Stander’s widow, Cherise, sent a video message urging cyclists to observe the rules of the road.
“After my husband’s accident, I realised that within a few seconds your life can change. We (as cyclists) cannot expect drivers to respect us when we don’t respect the rules of the road,” she said.
Burry, a former mountain biking champion, was killed in 2013 when a taxi ran him over while he was cycling.
“Just because you’re on a bicycle doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to you,” she said.
Mpho Mokhantso, from the Road Traffic Management Corporation, spoke on the national road safety strategy for 2016-2030.
“This is not the first time South Africa was developing a road safety strategy, nor are we the only country to have done so,” he said.
The vision for this strategy was safe and secure roads. The plan is to reduce road deaths by half by 2030 from the 2010 figure of 13 967 road deaths.
Professor Gerda van Dijk, from North West University, conducted a three-year research on road safety behaviour. She said that after Grade 4, there was no education in schools on road safety. The research was conducted in Ugu, Potchefstroom, Mthatha, De Doorns and Botlokwa.
Her findings were that there was general lawlessness on the roads, as well as a lack of visible enforcement; teachers had a lack of confidence in pupils’ abilities to make safe choices and people were more afraid of cattle in the street than cars.
Another of her findings was that a lot of road safety education became theoretical.
“If people learn about stop signs, but there are no stop signs where they live then they will never practise what they learn or relate to it,” Van Dijk said.
Fresh perspective needed
Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters – who was absent but had a representative there to read her speech – wrote: “Road safety education that starts at an early age should be one of the core focus areas; we must think about this from a fresh perspective.
“Formal education and training will remain important, but we must also broaden our minds and find ways to include road safety messages into the wider curriculum, into mathematics and science, geography and civic education,” the minister added.
“At the same time we have to realise that the world view and experiences of our young people are changing all the time.
“We now live in the era of social media, of free wi-fi and video-on-demand. If our road safety messages are not sufficiently fresh and creative they will get lost in the clutter of competing ideas,” Peters wrote.
She added that she was excited by the behavioural studies because this gave a comprehensive picture of where to start in terms of behavioural change.