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Fewer road deaths this Easter and driving licence backlog is being cleared — that’s the good news

But Western Cape and Mpumalanga saw more fatalities, and KZN’s floods saw visitors back off

Operating hours of the driving licence centres have been extended by two hours during the week and are opening on weekends, both Saturday and Sundays, until May 31.
Operating hours of the driving licence centres have been extended by two hours during the week and are opening on weekends, both Saturday and Sundays, until May 31.
Image: Jacques Stander/Gallo

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said 162 people perished on SA’s roads over the Easter period compared with 235 last year.

This resulted from 134 fatal crashes this year compared with 189 the previous year. Most of the crashes occurred on Friday and Saturday.

The number of cars on the roads remained the same except in KwaZulu-Natal where traffic volumes decreased by about 21% because of floods.

“We have come from a unique Easter period,” said Mbalula.

“This Easter period was marked by incessant rainfall throughout the country and floods that ravaged homes, infrastructure and left many families devastated in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as parts of Eastern Cape. Churches with huge following such as the Zion Christian Church did not have their annual Easter pilgrimage in compliance with the Covid-19 restrictions.”

All provinces recorded a decline in fatalities, except for the Western Cape and Mpumalanga. The Western Cape recorded a 30.8% increase from 26 fatalities in 2021 to 34 this year. Mpumalanga recorded a 27.8% rise from 18 road fatalities the previous year to 23 this year.

KwaZulu-Natal registered a 61.1% decline from 54 road deaths the previous year to 21 this year, while Gauteng registered a 33.3% fall with 24 fatalities this year.

“Our analysis shows that while the trend of fatalities per time of the day continues to show that most fatalities occur at night, a new phenomenon was noted this Easter with fatalities showing a sharp spike in the early hours of the morning between 4am and 5am.”

Mbalula said law enforcement statistics showed fewer people prosecuted for speeding, drunk driving, driving unlicensed vehicles and driving without fastening seat belts compared with previous years.

A total of 2,395 traffic fines were issued for speeding this year compared with 5,923 last year.

A total of 3,494 motorists were fined for operating unlicensed vehicles compared with 5,677 the previous year and 2,134 drivers were fined for driving without fastening seat belts compared with 2,351 last year.

Mbalula said the government aimed to reduce road fatalities by 25% by 2024. “Improving our law enforcement capability and visibility, as well as upscaling public safety campaigns will continue to gain traction.”

Driving licences

The minister reminded motorists there is only a week left to the final deadline for the extended grace period for renewal of driving licence cards that expired between March 26 2020 and end-August 2021.

“There will be no further extension of the grace period beyond this period,” Mbalula said.

“We will step up our law enforcement interventions in order to penalise those who wilfully disregard the law and fail to renew their expired licences.”

Currently the country has a backlog of 1.3-million expired driving licence cards that have yet to be renewed.

Analysis of the backlog by age of drivers who have not renewed their driving licence cards show that motorists between the ages of 25 and 50 years constitute 68% of drivers who have yet to renew their licences cards, he said.

To deal with the expected increase in the demand for services, Mbalula said daily operating hours of the driving licence centres have been extended by two hours during the week and centres are opening on weekends, on both Saturday and Sunday, until May 31.

The government is also allowing walk-ins in addition to online bookings in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, where online bookings are operational, until end-May.

Cards backlog

Mbalula said the government had overcome the capacity constraints that delayed the production of driving licence cards due to the machine that broke down last year.

The Driving Licence Card Account trading entity is now working 24-hour daily shifts to clear the backlog of driving licence cards, which stands at 596,513.

“The DLCA has ramped up its production capability and will be able to clear the current backlog of cards to be printed by the end of June,” said Mbalula.

He warned: “Our law enforcement authorities will be extremely ruthless in dealing with drivers who flout the law and drive without a valid driving licence card and cannot produce evidence that they have renewed their licence and are awaiting its issue.”

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