The festive season is a time for family reunions, joy and celebrations. In South Africa,
this period is characterised by high traffic volumes as holidaymakers take long-distance trips following the shutdown of industries and schools.
As a consequence of the increased traffi c volumes and festivities associated with this period, the country usually experiences a spike in road traffi c crashes that lead to fatalities and injuries.
The abuse of alcohol increases phenomenally during this period leading to an increase in instances of drunk driving.
Pedestrians also throw caution to the wind and stagger onto the roads while under the infl uence of alcohol.
Fatalities over the festive season A total of 1 770 people lost their lives on the country’s roads during this period last year.
This was a decrease compared to the 2 006 lives that were claimed in the previous year.
Statistics show that three provinces contribute more than 50 percent of the fatalities. These are Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
These provinces require dedicated attention to decrease the number of fatalities.
It has become evident over the years that most crashes and fatalities take place on 16 December, Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill (26 December) and New Year’s Day.
These are the days when traffi c volumes have subsided on national routes; people have reached their destinations and are engaging in parties and social gatherings with associated binge drinking.
This festive season is going to be particularly challenging because these key holidays are extended.
With 16 December falling on a Sunday, partying and drinking will be extended into Monday.
Christmas Day festivities will be started earlier on 24 December and extended over three days up to 26 December.
Vigilance needed This calls for high levels of vigilance and responsibility from all road users.
While law enforcement offi cers will be on the roads to maintain order and ensure safe mobility, every individual must play their part.
That role starts long before the trips are undertaken by ensuring that vehicles are in a roadworthy state.
Tyres, brakes and lights must be checked ahead of time.
Burst tyres and faulty brakes cause many road crashes.
The high levels of prevailing chronic non-communicable diseases in the country also require that driver fi tness be given priority.
Drivers with diabetes and high blood pressure, among others, must ensure that they take their medication before getting behind the steering wheel.
It is further important for drivers to have adequate sleep – about six to eight hours – before embarking on their journey and to take regular stops to avoid fatigue.
It is advisable for a driver to stop after every two hours or 200km of driving.
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