More than 1,400 people died on South Africa’s roads over the festive season

 ·17 Jan 2023

Data from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) shows that 1,451 people died on South Africa’s roads during the 2022/23 festive period – a 13.9% decrease in road fatalities from the previous year (1,685).

The South African festive season began on 1 December and ended on 11 January. This period is tracked every year for consistency in the data.

For the 2022/2023 festive period, the number of fatal crashes also decreased from 1,295 in 2021/22 to 1,211, the RTMC said.

The Western Cape saw the largest reduction in road deaths over the period, with a 36.7% decrease in fatalities.

Gauteng was the only province to see its number of road deaths over the festive period increase from the prior year – increasing from 275 to 290.

The change in festive season road deaths can be seen in the table below:

Province 2021/22 deaths 2022/23 deaths Y-O-Y change
Western Cape 207 131 -36.7%
Mpumalanga 189 144 -23.8%
Northern Cape 65 51 -21.5%
North-West 119 94 -21.0%
Limpopo 226 179 -20.8%
KwaZulu-Natal 275 240 -12.7%
Eastern Cape 210 205 -2.4%
Free State 119 117 -1.7%
Gauteng 275 290 +5.5%

The two most deadly weeks on South Africa’s roads over the festive period were 15 to 21 December and 22 to 28 December 2022, with fatalities reaching 327 and 316, respectively, the RTMC said.

The group noted with particular concern the rising number of pedestrian deaths, which grew from 31% to 41%.

This means that approximately 595 pedestrians died over the festive period.

The statistics are worse in the Western Cape and Gauteng, where pedestrian deaths contributed to 54% of all road fatalities. One example occurred in Pretoria, where three children were killed by a driver who fled the scene. 

Driver fatalities decreased from 28% to 27%, while passenger fatalities were down to 31% from 38%.

Cyclist fatalities also decreased slightly, from 3% to 2%.

Ways to tackle the issue

The RMTC said that road users should be cognisant of the fact that roads are a shared space, and that motorists, in particular, should look out for cyclists and pedestrians while travelling.

Moreover, it repeated the message that road users should buckle up while travelling in a vehicle.

2021 data published by Zutobi – gathered from the World Health Organisation (WHO) – shows that South Africa only had a 31% seat-belt wearing rate, which was incredibly low.

Speed enforcement is another way to reduce road accidents.

Gauteng recorded the most road deaths, but the speed cameras in Johannesburg and Tshwane only came back online on 1 January 2023 – the final stages of the festive season.

According to an Arrive Alive report, the fatality risk reduces by 41% in areas with high levels of speed enforcement.

Finally, as per Zutobi’s 2021 report, 57.5% of road deaths in South Africa were alcohol-related, which was by far the highest number in the study – Ireland comes in second with 39%.

The WHO has recommended numerous options to reduce South Africa’s alcohol-related vehicle deaths – such as increasing random breath testing in high-risk areas, imposing bans on the sale of alcohol on premises near major roads like petrol stations, and introducing alcohol interlocks which force convicted drunk drivers to provide a breath sample to start a car.

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