University of Cape Town researcher, Dr Rahul Jobanputra, says the alarming number of road traffic fatalities in South Africa moved him to focus his recent PhD study on alternative ways of making the country’s roads safer.

His thesis, An Investigation into the Reduction of Road Safety Risk in South Africa through the Use of Microscopic Simulation Modelling, looked specifically at using and developing computer software to analyse the interaction that occurs on roads in Cape Town.

“Despite having some of the best infrastructure in Africa, South Africa has one of the worst road safety records in the world,” says Dr Jobanputra. “There is a high record of road traffic fatalities: around 15 000 a year. South African cities consistently feature at the top of the global list of worst-known locations for road fatalities.”

He says the underlying reasons for the high fatality rates are complex. “These reasons are influenced by a combination of road network planning and design, the settlement patterns, and by behavioural and law enforcement issues. Worldwide, proactive road safety strategies have yielded tangible benefits over many years.”

From a review of the safety strategies Dr Jobanputra concluded that micro-simulation modelling is a promising method as it enables an investigation of pedestrian-vehicle and infrastructure interaction. Using case studies conducted in Cape Town, he developed ways to use this type of modelling to enable a comparative method of analysing road safety risk for various types of infrastructure and engineering countermeasures.

Dr Jobanputra adds: “The techniques presented in my research can be used by practitioners and decision makers to help them audit or assess infrastructure, either at the feasibility stage or post-crash. The techniques could also help them to better evaluate infrastructure’s safety characteristics and as a result to more appropriately modify these.”