2000

UNITED DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT

MEDIA RELEASE


THE UNACCEPTABLE COST OF
SOUTH AFRICA'S ROAD CARNAGE

STATEMENT ISSUED BY GERHARD KOORNHOF, MP
UDM SPOKESPERSON FOR FINANCE

Shocking details have been revealed regarding South Africa's road carnage, by the Minister of Transport, in reply to two parliamentary questions posed to him by the UDM.

A question dealing with the roadworthiness tests conducted during Easter 2000 revealed that 22.7% of the 36 405 vehicles tested were not roadworthy. These results illustrate how thousands of commuters' lives are endangered, with the most common offences including defecting or worn brakes, malfunctioning steering, as well as unsafe tyres. In addition, the Minister admits that corrupt officials at vehicle testing stations contribute to this situation and tacitly promote unroadworthiness.

A second UDM question to the Minister regarding the amount of accidents in which people died or were seriously injured, elicited the following shocking statistics. For the year of 1998 (statistics for 1999 are not available) 511 605 traffic accidents were reported, 36 246 people were seriously injured, and 9068 people were killed on our roads.

Calculating the cost of these accidents in terms of vehicle damage, lost output, pain and suffering, medical cost, administration cost and legal costs, the Minister estimates that the overall cost to the economy in 1998 was a staggering R 13 billion.

The Minister's repeated commitment to improving the situation is welcomed. However, we urge Government to give immediate attention to what is undoubtedly a huge crisis. An annual loss of more than 9000 lives on our roads is simply unacceptable. The estimated economic cost represents R 13 billion of lost opportunities for thousands of South Africans.

The UDM urges the Minister to investigate all the factors contributing to the high accident rate, specifically to determine whether current strategies are not overzealously focussing on some factors (such as speed) whilst other factors (such unroadworthiness or driver incompetence) require more attention.

An immediate and uncompromising approach to deal with corrupt officials must be developed and applied vigorously. These corrupt officials are gambling with the lives of innocent victims.

We welcome the Minister's announcement of an extensive plan, Strategy 2000 - 2004, and urge him to consider a holistic approach. The  UDM proposes that an effective strategy to address the problem will have  to involve other branches of Government; the Department of Education should commit itself to teach responsible road usage to our children from  an early age.

Enquiries:
Dr Gerhard Koornhof, MP
UDM Spokesperson for Finance

Cape Town
6 September 2000