A new campaign, driven by the UN and backed by local companies, has been launched with the aim of improving the safety situation on South Africa’s roads, by changing the behaviour of both pedestrian and vehicle road users.
The Think Pedestrian campaign is expected to run for a decade, and hopes are high that it will curb the rising number of road deaths in South Africa, attributed to negligence on the side of motorists as well as pedestrians.
The initiative is driven globally by the UN. With the slogan Together we can save millions of lives it is aimed at mobilising all nations to unite in promoting road safety.
Central to its objectives is to stabilise and reduce road incidents by educating drivers and pedestrians about road safety.
The Think Pedestrian initiative will be piloted in the high-risk provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Speaking at the launch on 11 April at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele said road fatalities are on the increase, with pedestrians accounting for more than 40% of deaths.
It is estimated that there are 40 accidents a day on the country’s routes, and 14 000 a year.
However, said Ndebele, South Africa is seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
The number of road crashes over the Easter weekend, traditionally a dangerous time to be out and about, dropped to 181 from 215 in 2011. This is according to the Easter 2012 preliminary statistics released by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
Ndebele commended motorists for applying caution and for driving in a sober state over the Easter weekend.
“In this regard, we would like to compliment all road users who adhered to the rules of the road, as well as all our law enforcement officers and the emergency services personnel who went beyond the call of duty,” he said.
Whilst he expressed delight in the progress made, he warned that there is still a long route ahead in making the country’s roads safer. He urged road users to help the government to achieve its 2020 goal of reducing road fatalities by half.
To support Think Pedestrian, the minister announced that more than 1 000 motorists and pedestrians will be screened every month for alcohol compliance, as laid out in the National Rolling Enforcement Plan.
Ndebele urged community members to join road safety councils in their area which have been initiated by the Department of Transport.
“They aim to work with communities in inculcating a culture of responsibility with regard to the use of the road.”
They are also tasked with identifying road safety hazards within their communities, and get people interested in helping to resolve them. By so doing, the department hopes to instil a sense of community ownership.
Changing road user behaviour
Eqstra MD Murray Price said the campaign will consist of a range of road awareness campaigns designed to change road user behaviour for the better.
“The problem is not about how good or bad drivers and pedestrians are; attitude is the problem. We have to educate our people about the importance of observing the rules of the road,” he said. “We can save lives by doing so.”
Price pointed out that there is a task team which will identify accident hotspots across the country’s roads as the campaign spreads to other provinces.
“We will be guided by the Department of Transport in identifying these places. From there we can evaluate the root cause of the problem.”
He said Eqstra, as a fleet management and logistics company, has a responsibility to contribute to the reduction of road death statistics. Part of the campaign will include installing road signage and speed bumps, and patching potholes in line with the respective needs in every area.
A golf tournament will be launched soon to raise funds in order to sustain the campaign.
“It will be played annually until the 10-year period lapses,” he said.
Adding to Price’s sentiments, the acting manager of RTMC, Collins Letsoalo, said road safety awareness campaigns run on an annual basis are already underway to support the Think Pedestrian campaign.
One of the campaigns supported by the RTMC is Think Bike, an NGO run entirely by volunteers.
Under the slogan Raising awareness, saving lives, it speaks for road users such as runners, walkers and bikers, and is aimed at encouraging motorists to be considerate and tolerant of two-wheeled road users.
Dr Francis Kasolo, representing the UN, stated that South Africa is setting the pace in that it’s launched the campaign a year earlier than numerous other countries.
“That shows the commitment of the government to road safety,” he said.