Capetonians exercise the most and are the nation’s safest drivers – and there is a correlation between the two, says Discovery Vitality in its Road to a Healthier South Africa report, published on Thursday.
The health programme presented the latest insights on the physical activity levels and driving behaviour of over half a million Vitality members in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.
“There are two main behaviours causing significant illness and deaths among South Africans. One, how we drive. Two, how much we move. The statistics are staggering,” said head of Vitality Wellness, Dr Craig Nossel.
“More than 5 million deaths could be avoided each year if people moved regularly. More than 1.25 million people die in road accidents every year – that’s 3,425 people a day. Added to this, between 20 and 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, and many become disabled. But, we can improve these statistics,” he said.
“We need to start by understanding this behaviour better and creating an environment that encourages healthier lifestyles and better driving. We aim to do just that over the next 10 weeks with Vitality Open – by making Vitality Active Rewards available to all South Africans for the first time.”
According to the report, we are getting lazier and more reckless the world over with an increase in both sedentary behaviour and poor driving.
The carnage on South African roads is well known to us all, said Prof Sebastian van As, head of the trauma unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. “The Road Traffic Management Corporation reports that, over 2016, a total of 14,071 people died on SA’s roads, a figure 9% up from 2015.
“This is the highest annual road death toll since 2007 – when 14,920 people died. Easter road fatalities spiked by 51% between 2016 and 2017. In 2015 alone, road traffic crashes cost our economy R178 billion,” he said.
From data collected over 2016, 2017 and 2018, Discovery Vitality’s report found that Cape Town fares the best in driving behaviour across the major metropolitan cities.
When it comes to better driving, Durban fares the worst nationally – with their driving behaviour measuring 11% below the winning city, Cape Town. Cape Town is followed in order by Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria.
This 12-month measure of driving behaviour considered the ABCs of driving, with poor driving behaviour associated with harsh acceleration, harsh braking and harsh cornering. Bloemfontein places first, for the third year in a row, with the lowest number of harsh ABC events, while Durban are in their rear-view mirror – coming in last.
Speeding is a major predictor of car accidents in South Africa, Discovery Vitality said. An evident blind spot for Bloemfontein, drivers in this city rank last when it comes to speeding – 30% worse than winning Cape Town. After the Mother City, Joburg scores the best in this category – 9% away from first place, it said.
Across our metropolitan cities, there is similarly poor behaviour with night driving, the report said. Overtaking Durban in this metric is Joburg – with drivers in this city driving the least during the dangerous hours of the night. In last place is Bloemfontein – with just 5% between the winning and losing city.
“Driving between 11pm and 4:30am is 7 times more dangerous than driving at other times of the day,” Discovery’s report said.
“This metric considers distracted driving through phone usage – one of the biggest risks on South African roads,” the report said.
Cape Town has the least exposure to this risk compared to all other cities – placing first in this category. On the other end of the spectrum is Bloemfontein, with drivers in this city using their cellphones 11% more than Cape Town, placing them at the greatest risk of accidents caused by distracted driving.
The worst 20% of drivers use their phones for an average of three minutes per trip, the report said.