EASTERN CAPE ROADS DEADLIEST IN SA: DAILY DISPATCH

THE deadliest road in South Africa is the N2 between East London and Mthatha – and the second deadliest lies between Mthatha and Kokstad.

This emerged in a road fatalities report released on Friday by the Road and Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

The eastern half of the Eastern Cape featured six times in the top 25 most dangerous roads list.

A total of 90 fatalities were reported along the East London to Mthatha stretch over a period of 12 months, while 77 fatalities were recorded along the Mthatha to Kokstad route.

The figures are significantly higher than the country’s third deadliest road between Mokopane and Polokwane, on which 54 people died.

The record highs occur despite the fact that the numbers of vehicles using these routes are significantly lower than the country’s busiest national roads, such as the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban.

The dangerous nature of the N2 between East London and Kokstad was underscored yesterday when the driver of a truck slammed into an accident scene outside Mthatha, hitting an ambulance, a car and a minibus taxi.

Six vehicles were involved in the pile-up. Four people were rushed to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in critical condition after the jaws of life were used to remove them from their vehicles, according to Arrive Alive spokesman Tshepo Machaea.

The reason why this stretch of road is so dangerous, according to RTMC’S communications officer Luthando Ngilana, is mainly because of the high number of unroadworthy vehicles and drunk drivers, as well as motorists using cellphones and generally driving recklessly.

Ngilana said some of South Africa’s busiest roads, with highest traffic volumes, were the N1 between Polokwane and Johannesburg, the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban, and the road between Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. Yet these did not feature among the worst 39 routes in South Africa.

He said these roads had low fatality rates compared with those of the Eastern Cape.

The other routes in the province to feature on the list of 39 included the roads from: Port St Johns to Bizana – 33 fatalities; King William’s Town to East London – 31 fatalities;

Queenstown to Mthatha – 31 fatalities; and

Mthatha to Port St Johns – 26 fatalities. According to statistics, over 1 300 vehicles were involved in crashes resulting in the deaths of 8 677 people in the province in the last financial year.

While the RTMC said Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces showed improvement in the organisation’s 2015 goal of curbing road fatalities by 50%, the situation had worsened in the Eastern Cape.

Machaea said Arrive Alive was concerned by the RTMC report. He said the N2 catered for a high number of small vehicles travelling between Kwazulu-natal and the Western Cape.

He said that because passenger vehicles using the road were often ferrying groups of people, the statistical likelihood of more fatalities was greater than in other provinces where people often travelled alone.

“It is rare to find one person driving in a vehicle in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

Machaea said the high volumes of traffic in other provinces comprised trucks, while in the Eastern Cape it was mainly passenger vehicles.

He said Arrive Alive was intensifying its road safety programmes, but said the courts needed to take traffic offences more seriously.

“If the law was serious about these kinds of offences we would have fewer fatalities on our roads,” he said.

He blamed some of the fatalities on the N2 on stray animals, but said eight out of 10 road accidents were due to alcohol abuse.

The Democratic Alliance’s provincial leader Bobby Stevenson said the N2 needed an increase in visible traffic policing.

“Visible traffic policing deters bad driving,” he said. “That road is bad – during our trip to celebrate Nelson Mandela Day we came across two different, serious head-on collisions in just a short space of time.” — evansm@dispatch.co.za