Festive road deaths marginally down

Minister Dipuo Peters said nearly 1,400 people died in road crashes since the start of December.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters. Picture: GCIS.

PRETORIA - There has been a marginal decrease in the number of road deaths this festive season compared to the previous period, the Department of Transport revealed on Thursday.

Speaking in Centurion earlier in the day, Minister Dipuo Peters said nearly 1,400 people died in road crashes since the start of December.

The figure is down from the 2012/2013 festive season count, where 1,558 people were killed on South African roads.

But the minister says the latest figures remain unacceptable.

Peters says the number of people killed on the roads should be viewed in a different context because South Africans have become complacent.

"It's equal to three Boeing 747 planes," she explains.

The minister says human error plays a big role in crashes.

She also outlined a number of other areas, including drunk driving, speeding, reckless overtaking and driver fatigue.

According to Peters, road deaths are avoidable in most cases.

The minister did however come under fire from the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the statistics don't reflect the entire festive season period.

The numbers released are preliminary and will include deaths recorded this coming weekend, officials confirmed.

High traffic volumes are expected ahead of the start of the new school year.

DA shadow transport minister Ian Ollis said the department is merely trying to do damage control.

He says the final figure will in fact be far higher than previous years.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle on Thursday said although the provincial holiday season road death toll is showing signs of decreasing, a challenging weekend lies ahead.

Around 151 people died on the province's roads compared to 159 the previous year.

The MEC says a busy weekend lies ahead for traffic officials.

"This is the big week for returning traffic out of the Cape. So far, so good, other than the taxi crash in De Doorns. We will be issuing formal figures around 17 January."