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The high cost of road crashes

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Based on a ratio of serious injuries to fatalities and slight injuries to fatalities, as well as consideration for under-reporting, it is estimated 13 591 people died on South Africa’s roads in 2015.

In addition, 62 520 people were seriously injured and a further 202 509 slightly injured. A further 1 429 794 persons were involved in Road Traffic Crashes (RTCs) without sustaining any injuries.

This is according to Kobus Labuschagne who presented “The Cost of Crashes in South Africa 2016” at the 2017 Southern African Transport Conference and Exhibition (SATC).

Labuschagne explains that, using historical data, it’s estimated that the ratio of serious injuries to fatalities was 4.6:1 and the ratio for slight injuries to fatalities was 14.9:1 in 2015.

He adds that the “total cost of road traffic crashes (RTCs)” metric is an important road safety indicator, and the departure point for understanding the extent and magnitude of the road safety problem in a country. The total cost of RTCs on South Africa’s road network for 2015 amounted to approximately R142,95-billion – or 3,4 % of the country’s GDP.

“Human casualty costs accounted for 69,3% of the total crash cost, while vehicle repairs accounted for 14,9% and related incident costs 15,8%.”

Labuschagne laments the cumbersome process of obtaining useable South African based RTC cost data and related research. Prior to 2016, the last RTC cost estimation was published in 2004 by the Department of Transport (DoT).

He says this is, to a large extent, indicative of the significant fragmentation that exists among the road traffic safety management fraternity. He also cites a lack of clear leadership and associated road safety governance failures.

Labuschagne believes good RTC recording systems and databases typically contain a plethora of data elements, including the severity of crashes and the injuries sustained; road user type, gender and age; dates and times; type, location and road conditions and the type of vehicle(s) involved.

He adds that reliability of the RTC costing system is dependent on a consistent, credible, comprehensive, and timely crash database. This requires recording of crash data to be conducted with diligence.

“In the absence of this, strategies will have to be developed to simulate RTC statistics as part of a go-forward strategy, as was the case with cost of crashes 2016,” he says.