Keynote address at the launch of traffic officers/wardens for level crossings by Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP, Minister of Transport, Rustenburg, North West
13 Oct 2011
Programme Director: Major-General Patrick Asaneng
Minister of Public Enterprises: Mr Malusi Gigaba
Premier of the North West: Ms Thandi Modise
MEC Community Safety and Liaison: Mr Desbo Mohono
Executive Mayor of Rustenburg: Mr Mpho Khunou
CEO of Transnet: Mr Brian Molefe
Acting CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation: Mr Collins Letsoalo
On Monday (13 October), we hosted senior private sector executives and transport CEOs and board members, as part of our “Friends of the Decade of Action” initiative.
This followed our meeting with Ministers of Transport and Meteorology from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) last Friday (7 October) in Pretoria. During that meeting, we launched the SADC Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 to 2020, positioning the region’s renewed commitment to the United Nations’ call for halving road fatalities by 2020.
Today here in Rustenburg, as part of our October Transport Month campaign, we launch the Road Safety Level Crossing Project by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Public Safety and Liaison.
What this event confirms is that accidents are not confined to our primary and secondary road networks only. They extend to areas where trains, motor vehicles and people cross levels and intersections. Due to the high incidence of fatalities and injuries at level crossings, TFR has identified the need to promote and enhance safety at level crossings.
It is very encouraging to note that TFR, after having engaged with the RTMC, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2009 to be partners in enhancing safety at level crossings in South Africa.
Today’s launch is the first to be followed by a series of initiatives at level crossings around the country. We have piloted this project here in Rustenburg, in the North West province because of the high occurrence of level crossing accidents in this area.
Programme Director, the objective of this project is to ensure that:
The designated traffic officers promote law enforcement at level crossings where they are deployed, and furthermore to ensure general law enforcement.
Traffic officers promote and educate the public about the dangers related to railway traffic in general, and at level crossings in particular.
Traffic officers assist in the evaluation of risks at level crossings.
Traffic officers organise and present community education and community awareness projects on safe interface between rail operators and road users in the communities.
Safety presentations are done at schools in the areas or communities close to railway level crossings.
Ladies and gentlemen, I must stress that the Road Safety Level Crossing campaign is just one of the many projects undertaken by government in response to the Decade of Action for Road Safety. This is a joint initiative, which pays credence to the fact that Road Safety is ultimately a cross-cutting, multi-disciplinary issue that requires multi-sector partnerships if it is to be implemented successfully.
Already, Rail Level Crossings have reflected fatal statistics which point to a crisis and by their nature require drastic action, and the raising of the collective consciousness of the greatest number of people possible. We can no longer pretend that safety is a matter of business as usual.
By way of illustration, from April 2006 to March 2011 there were 636 level crossing incidents that resulted in 112 fatalities nationally. Almost all level crossing accidents are as a result of the failure of motorists to stop at clearly demarcated stop signs at level crossings. This results from lack of understanding that trains take more time to stop, even when the driver applies brakes. Add to this a loaded train which, engineers will tell you, can take more than a kilometre to stop.
In its commitment to maintain safe crossings at all times, TFR will robustly engage communities in assisting with the eradication of tragic and unnecessary incidents by obeying all traffic laws governing rail level crossings at all times.
We have noted that people involved in railway level crossing incidents are usually complacent when approaching crossings. On the other hand, the law requires motorists to bring a motor vehicle to a complete stop at a level crossing! There is no yielding, there is no slowing down - it is a complete stop!
The motion mechanics of a train do not allow it to swerve to avoid a motor vehicle and, given the weight of a train, the chances of a motorist surviving a crash with a train are next to zero. Motor vehicles are not built to withstand a lateral impact inflicted by a moving piece of metal called a train; airbags cannot save you- nothing can save you!
United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety
This partnership between the Departments of Transport, Public Enterprises, Human Settlements and Community Safety, through the Rail Level Crossing initiative, has already heeded our call to implement the UN Decade of Action resolutions.
Ladies and gentlemen, some of you would ask yourselves why the Decade of Action for Road Safety has become such a topical issue for us? We have to commit ourselves to stopping the carnage on the roads, because the death of 14 000 people every year, the death of at least 1 000 people every month, and the death of no less than 40 people every day on South Africa's roads must be seen as a crisis requiring an urgent solution. We are a country that can least afford the loss to the economy of over R60 billion per annum.
Today’s event is a significant part of making our roads safe. As a country, we have committed to halving road deaths by 2020. In truth, our strategy seeks to drastically reduce the carnage over the next three years to 2015, as part of the Millennium Development Goals. We shall do this in every village, every local municipality, every district municipality and every province.
Internationally, our efforts complement those of the rest of the world which has committed to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 to 2020. Our success in this country is the success of the world, which faces 1.3 million deaths annually from road-related accidents.
Earlier this year, in London we officiated at the launch of the Make Roads Safe Time for Action Report of the Commission for Global Safety and the launch of the Zenani Mandela Road Safety Scholarship. Through the Decade of Action, Member States, with the support of the international community, have pledged zero tolerance to key transgressions which lead to road deaths. We agreed that we would enforce legislation on key risk factors including:
- limiting speed;
- reducing drunk-driving; and
- Increasing the use of seatbelts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets.
In November 2009, we were part of the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation. In July of the same year, we addressed the Africa Make Roads Safe conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania towards the "Call for a Decade of Action for Road Safety in Africa."
How South Africa is responding to the Decade of Action
The 2011 October Transport Month (OTM) campaign places emphasis on public and freight transport safety. The 2011 OTM focuses on three areas: Road Safety, Public Transport and the Provision of Road Infrastructure. As part of the Decade of Action, we have undertaken to reduce fatalities through the following:
- Finalisation and implementation of South Africa's National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan for 2011 to 2020, in consultation with government, business and civil society. The strategy focuses on better utilisation of human and financial resources across spheres of government to address road deaths.
- Each province, each district municipality and each local municipality reporting every month on the number of road accidents occurring in their area, what the causal factors are and how these are being addressed.
Update on the NREP
The new National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP) was launched on 10 September 2010, to harmonise road traffic enforcement operations across the three tiers of government. The key objective of the NREP was to stop and check a minimum of one million vehicles per month nation-wide for driver and vehicle fitness.
From October 2010 to August 2011, 12,984,120 vehicles and drivers were checked, 5,540,275 fines issued for various traffic offences, 18,527 drunk drivers arrested and 50,272 un-roadworthy vehicles (the majority of which are buses and taxis) discontinued from use.
Last month (September 2011), at least 1 500 un-roadworthy buses and taxis have been taken off South Africa's roads, following our instruction on 31 August that every bus and taxi must be stopped and checked.
From 31 August to 25 September 2011, 194,962 public transport vehicles were stopped and checked; 783 mini-buses, 501 buses, 210 scholar transport vehicles, and 253 trucks discontinued from use; 39,934 fines issued for various public transport offences; more than 825 public transport drivers arrested including 168 for drunk driving, 552 for overloading, 55 for excessive speed, 17 for reckless and/or negligent driving and 88 in connection with public transport permits.
The biggest success of the NREP has been the alignment of traffic operations along monthly thematic approaches. Having said that, there remain many challenges in respect of compliance among road users. The number of road deaths during the past two months (August and September) proves that we still have a long way to go to reduce offences and crashes.
Revising the NREP
On 1 October 2011, we celebrated the first birthday of NREP. Based on an evaluation of traffic offence and road crash data, we have already commenced with our pre-December festive season traffic law enforcement operations. We want to warn road users that no mercy will be shown to any person who commits any traffic violation.
Medical Research Council’s figures indicate that more than 60% of fatal crashes, especially over weekends, are as a result of abuse of alcohol either by a driver or a pedestrian. As a result, I have instructed that, as part of Operation Tswara Setakgwa (Arrest the Drunkard) every traffic officer must arrest one drunkard per month.
As of May this year, no less than 10 000 drivers are being screened every month for drinking and driving.
A concerted effort will be made on dangerous driving and motorists will be arrested for excessive speeding, reckless and negligent driving and barrier line infringement.
Public passenger transport enforcement will continue and operators that do not comply with permit requirements, are guilty of gross overloading and operate vehicles that un-roadworthy, will be arrested.
Research has proven conclusively that if we can increase the seatbelt wearing rate by 80% for both front and rear passengers there is a potential to reduce fatalities by 25-30%. We are therefore calling on all South Africans to buckle up at all times. Seatbelts save lives. It will not prevent one from having a crash, but it will certainly reduce death or serious injury by 50%. The benefits of seatbelts are therefore enormous. We cannot continue to ignore seatbelts as a critical safety feature and all South Africans can make a difference by buckling up. (Don’t be a “moegoe” by not buckling up!)
Distracted driving, particularly in urban areas, is becoming a huge problem: motorists are seen daily talking on their cell phones, and now even texting, while driving. Talking while driving increases your chances of being involved in a crash by four times. Texting while driving is far more dangerous.
We are embarking on a massive education and communication campaign on road safety. We are making progress towards ensuring that road safety education forms part of the life skills curriculum at schools, towards ensuring that every Grade 11 learner will have a learner's licence and every 18 year old a driving licence.
Our proposal for a total ban on consuming alcohol whilst driving for certain categories of drivers, and/or lowering the current legal alcohol limit has received overwhelming support. We have also proposed a new graduated licensing scheme.
We also recently announced a proposal to reduce the current maximum speed limit. This proposal has ignited a lively debate in South Africa about road safety. We want to know what South Africans think we must do to end road carnage.
We have rolled out Community Road Safety Councils (CRSC’s) to organise our communities, so they can be the key drivers of our campaign for road safety. We urge you to join the CRSC in your area, and become an active participant to stop these deaths.
The Lights-on campaign will be intensified. We urge all motorists to drive with their headlamps switched on during the day.
We encourage members of the public to report bad driving or related behaviour to the National Traffic Call Centre on 0861 400 800.
Ladies and gentlemen, road deaths will end when we have solid partnerships with organised labour, business, the religious community, civil society as well as other formations.
In this regard, we commend the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), which has become a valuable partner in this journey, for their Operation Hlokomela through which the taxi industry leadership is monitoring their drivers and operators to ensure they adhere to safe road rules.
Together, we can win on our commitment to the Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Issued by: Department of Transport
13 Oct 2011
[ Top ]