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​A 10-year campaign driven by the UN and backed by local companies has been launched to change the behaviour of road users and end the rising number of road deaths in South Africa.
EACH year dozens of people are killed on South Africa’s roads, mainly because of negligence both on the side of motorists and pedestrians themselves. A 10-year campaign called Think Pedestrian has been launched in a bid to end the slaughter.

Minister Sbu NdebeleMinister Sbu Ndebele: Road fatalities on the increaseThe campaign is a global initiative driven by the United Nations. With the slogan, “Together we can save millions of lives”, it is aimed at mobilising all nations to unite in promoting road safety.

It is endorsed by Eqstra Fleet Management and Logistics and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in support of Nelson Mandela Day.

Central to its objectives is to stabilise and reduce road carnage by educating both drivers and pedestrians about road safety.

Speaking on the day of the launch on Wednesday, 11 April at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said road fatalities are on the increase. Pedestrians account for more than 40 percent of road deaths. It is estimated that there are 40 crashes on the country’s routes per day and 14 000 a year.

Easter weekend
However, he said South Africa is seeing light at the end of the tunnel, attributing his optimism to the reduction of road crashes over the Easter weekend.

The Easter 2012 preliminary statistics released by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) recorded a total of 181 crashes – a drastic reduction compared to last year. In 2011 215 crashes were reported and 256 people lost their lives.

Ndebele commended motorists for applying caution and for driving in a sober state over the Easter weekend.

“In this regard, we would like to compliment all road users who adhered to the rules of the road, as well as all our law enforcement officers and the emergency services personnel who went beyond the call of duty,” he said.

Whilst he expressed delight in the progress made, he warned that there is still a long route ahead in making the country’s roads safer. He urged road users to help government to achieve its 2020 goal of reducing road fatalities by 50 percent.

Screening for alcohol
In another endeavour to assist Think Pedestrian, the minister announced that more than 1 000 motorists and pedestrians will be screened every month for alcohol, as per the National Rolling Enforcement Plan.

Managing director of EqstraManaging director of Eqstra Murray PriceThe Think Pedestrian initiative will be piloted in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. The three provinces were identified as high-risk areas.

Ndebele urged community members to join road safety councils in their area which have been initiated by the Department of Transport. “They aim to work with communities in inculcating a culture of responsibility with regard to the use of the road.”

They are also tasked with identifying road safety hazards within their communities. By so doing, the department hopes to instil community ownership.

Road awareness
Giving details about Think Pedestrian, the managing director of Eqstra, Murray Price, said the campaign will consist of a range of road awareness campaigns designed to change road user behaviour for the better.

“The problem is not about how good or bad drivers and pedestrians are; attitude is the problem. We have to educate our people about the importance of observing the rules of the road… We can save lives by so doing,” he said.

Price pointed out that there is a task team which will identify accident hotspots across the country’s roads as the campaign spreads to other provinces. “We will be guided by the Department of Transport in identifying these places. From there we can evaluate the root cause of the problem.”

He said Eqstra, as a fleet management and logistics company, has a responsibility to contribute to the reduction of road death statistics. Part of the campaign will include installing road signage and speed bumps, and patching potholes as per the respective needs in every area.

Golf tournament
A golf tournament will be launched soon to raise funds in order to sustain the campaign. “It will be played annually until the 10-year period lapses,” he said.

Adding to Price’s sentiments, the acting manager of RTMC, Collins Letsoalo, said road safety awareness campaigns run on an annual basis are already underway to support the Think Pedestrian campaign.

One of the campaigns supported by the RTMC is Think Bike, a non-governmental organisation run entirely by volunteers. 

Under the slogan “Raising awareness, saving lives”, it is the voice of the vulnerable road users including runners, walkers and bikers. It is aimed at encouraging motorists to be considerate and tolerant of two-wheeled road users.

Dr Francis Kasolo, representing the United Nations, stated that South Africa is well ahead of other countries, launching the campaign a year earlier than others. “That shows the commitment of the government to road safety,” he said.

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