Road accidents spike during the festive season. Although some are beyond our control, many could be avoided by changing our driving behaviour. ER24 experts explain why.
Car crash statistics
Shocking figures from the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) show that about 14000 people die on our roads every year – and this doesn’t include those who suffer serious injuries, such as head trauma and loss of mobility.
Sadly, many of these deaths and injuries occur over the festive season, when drunk driving, overcrowded vehicles, speeding, and reckless driving increase the number of tragedies that occur daily.
Research from Arrive Alive also shows drivers under 19 years old are four times more likely to be involved in accidents – and a staggering 20 times more likely to cause accidents due to drunk driving or speeding. Lack of experience, especially in bad weather conditions, adds to the risk of car crashes in this age group.
Leading causes of car crashes
Saadiq Kariem, ER24 Acting Branch Manager, South Metropole, says the most common causes of road accidents are often within our control:
Distracted driving – While behind the wheel you can become distracted by anything from texting, applying make-up, eating, fiddling with the radio, trying to remove an article of clothing, or arguing with passengers. Research from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that texting while driving distracts a driver for an average of 4.6 seconds and increases the chances of crashing by a massive 23%. “Keep your eyes on the road at all times,” Kariem cautions. “And pull over if you find yourself losing focus.”
Drunk driving – Being intoxicated can cause many fatal accidents. While South African research on this topic is limited as data is often not recorded, “it goes without saying that getting behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated is both illegal and unwise”, says Gareth Staley, Operations Manager for Assistance Services at ER24.
Speeding and reckless driving – This includes unsafe overtaking, disregarding traffic signs, and reckless lane changes. “If you don’t keep a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you, you won’t have enough time to react if the driver does something unexpected, such as slamming on the brakes or making a sudden turn,” Kariem warns.
Poor road conditions – AA stats show that potholes, uneven surfaces, and bad lighting are responsible for a quarter of all road accidents in South Africa. “Try to avoid driving at night or in bad weather,” Staley advises. “Regular car maintenance is essential to prevent accidents caused by mechanical failures. Check your tyres, brakes, and steering regularly, and fix any issues promptly.”
Human factors – Fatigue, stress, and medical conditions also contribute to road accidents. “If you have a medical condition that affects your ability to drive, always follow your doctor’s advice and take any medicines necessary to control the condition,” says Kariem. “Avoid driving if your condition is uncontrolled or if you experience symptoms such as dizziness or seizures.” Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive and take breaks every two hours to rest and stretch.
Responsible driving could potentially save thousands of lives and prevent numerous life-altering accidents on South African roads.
Call 084 124 for real help, real fast in any emergency.