As the world marks UN Global Traffic Safety Week, it is becoming clear that South African road users need to develop a broader understanding of road safety – including crime awareness – if we are to make our country’s roads safer.
This is the view of Pierre Bruwer, MD of Netstar, who encourages drivers to be vigilant against all threats to their safety – not just traditional road safety challenges like speeding, following distance and roadworthiness.
“While our crime levels are quite high in South Africa , there are a number of things we can do to make ourselves safe on the roads,” says Bruwer. “Anyone who wants to be safe on the road needs to take that into account. It’s vital that we follow the rules of the road, but protecting yourself, your family and your assets also means being vigilant and protecting yourself against crime.”
A worrying 4 513 carjackings were reported in the first quarter of this year, according to the most recent crime statistics released by the SA Police Service – a 4,9% increase. There were also 354 truck hijackings and 42 cash-in-transit robberies. These figures point to a broader set of safety threats on South African roads, besides the traditional concerns of speeding, drunk driving and vehicle fitness.
Johan Jonck, spokesperson for arrivealive.co.za, echoes this sentiment, pointing out that the Covid-19 pandemic was also leading to wider variety of road-safety threats.
Jonck says that vehicle crimes had been rising again, since the end of lockdown. He said this was likely due to people becoming desperate after the negative impact Covid-19 had had on the economy. He recommended that road users always be aware of the threat of hijackings, smash-and-grabs and vehicle theft.
“As road users, we need to sharpen up a bit, and think South African,” says Jonck. “For instance, with many roads in poor condition, and the danger of crime, we should reduce driving at night. Because of reckless driving by others, we should approach all intersections with caution, regardless of what colour the traffic light is. It’s all about preventative awareness.”
Jonck also recommends that drivers be on the lookout for potential crime scenarios when on the road, and reduce speed significantly when driving in urban areas. The UN is this year calling for urban speed limits to be reduced to as little as 30km/h.
Bruwer agrees that crime awareness needed to be a core part of road safety awareness, and pointed out that there were numerous technologies that could help to protect road users.
“Vehicle tracking is an indispensable tool for protecting your family, your vehicle and yourself,” he says. “Panic buttons can provide peace of mind, and geofencing can send automated alerts to tracking companies if your vehicle moves beyond a certain area, or accelerates beyond a certain speed.”
Bruwer says that data analytics could identify high-risk roads for fleet operators and recommend the safest routes to follow. Netstar’s vehicle-tracking platforms allow colleagues or loved ones to follow a journey in real time, to check that it is proceeding safely.
“Being vigilant is now an important part of road safety,” said Bruwer. “Fortunately, we can also use technology to protect and connect us, and ensure we’re safe when we’re on the roads – in every way.”
* The sixth UN Global Traffic Safety Week is running this week (17-23 May 2021), under the slogan “Streets For Life”.