By Donald Grant, Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works:
Below is an excerpt of a speech delivered by Western Cape Minister of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, at the UN World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims event in Khayelitsha this morning.
Today marks the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. We are gathered here on this day to commemorate the lives of those that we have lost so tragically on our roads. By the time we celebrate New Year’s Eve, over 1 million people will have been killed on the world’s roads in 2015 alone. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015, released just last month, states that some 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Each death represents a father, mother, brother, sister, son and daughter; a senseless loss of potential, the effects of which continue to tear families apart each day. Road deaths have already eclipsed malaria as a global killer and it won’t be too long before they surpass TB and AIDS. It is no surprise that the World Health Organisation refers to a “Global Traffic Injury Pandemic”.
The Director-General of the WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, rightly points out that, “Road traffic fatalities take an unacceptable toll – particularly on poor people in poor countries”. Sadly South Africa continues to have one of the poorer road safety records in the world, with more than 17,000 people killed per annum. The human tragedy is staggering – the economic cost is crippling. Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery, recently estimated that a 30% reduction in fatalities would lead to a 1.5% increase in GDP, which could lift millions of South Africans out of poverty.
We also know that both internationally and domestically, pedestrian deaths remain very high, with the pedestrian class of fatality being disproportionately represented in both South African and global road death statistics. The WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 identifies pedestrians and cyclists as being among the groups with the least protection, making up 22% and 4% of global deaths respectively. In the Western Cape, pedestrian deaths account for over 40% of all deaths recorded on our roads. It is imperative that policy makers continue to look carefully at ways to make walking safer through rethinking how people and vehicles share the road.
Addressing the issue is a moral and economic imperative. I should like to call on all sectors of society to join the struggle for safer roads. The theme for this year’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is, “It’s time to Remember – Say NO to Road Crimes”: A call to action on all of us to be part of the solution to this growing pandemic, and to ensure that our behaviours as individuals do not make us part of the problem.
I am, however, optimistic that through effective partnerships across all sectors, we can address this problem effectively, and in doing so, truly honour the many lives that we have already lost. Without partnership, we cannot possibly hope to have any positive impact on the scourge of this crippling pandemic. Partnership means joining hands across the spheres of government, between business and labour, NGOs and corporates, and above all entering into an unwritten contract with the public itself, through communities and individuals.
While we strive to build such partnerships on the ground, in immediate terms we need our colleagues in the justice system, from SAPS through to the highest benches in the land, to join us in acknowledging the urgency of the situation. They can do this by helping us deter offenders, both by acting against them on the street, and by ensuring that convictions for serious offences truly deter future potential offenders. We need our colleagues in the national Department of Health to link arms with us to tackle driving under the influence head on, and help us to help them to take the burden of road trauma off their ERs, ICUs, hospital beds and outpatient services.
As we remember the very many that have lost their lives on our roads, let us recommit ourselves to being safe and responsible road users who are mindful of the serious consequences that reckless and irresponsible road use has on our roads