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Holiday Traffic Fatalities Decline in South Africa Due to Aggressive Program


Authorities in South Africa say traffic fatalities on the nation's roads have declined during the December holiday period in comparison with last year. They credit the drop to a program of road checks, driver education and stiffer punishments for speeders and drunk drivers. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

South Africa's Transportation Department has reported a drop of more than 10 percent in the number of traffic fatalities (1150) this month compared to the same period last year.

This is due in part to an aggressive program of road blocks, roving patrols and driver education coordinated by the Arrive Alive safety campaign.

The head of the campaign, Ntau Letebele, says 90 percent of all traffic fatalities involve some violation of traffic laws.

He said, "Our main challenge on the road is the combination of speed and alcohol, pedestrian jaywalking as well as unroadworthy vehicles."

South Africa has one of the highest per capita traffic death rates in Africa. And Africa has three times more traffic deaths per number of overall vehicles than the global average.

Officials say more than one half of all traffic fatalities in South Africa involve speeding. Alcohol is also involved in a majority of fatal crashes as well as in some 70 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Transportation officials say this year 7,500 traffic officers have been deployed and are conducting 1,000 road checks per day.

On Christmas Day in the Johannesburg area alone, traffic police caught 5,000 drivers exceeding the speed limit.

Letebele says a major challenge is convincing people that traffic laws are meant to save lives and should be obeyed.

"Here we still have a big problem around [regarding] changing people's culture, around [regarding] realizing that if you break a traffic rule, signposted speed limit, if you get drunk and drive you are irresponsible. And that must be socially unacceptable," he said.

The South African government has announced new measures to reduce traffic fatalities beginning next year. These include seizing the vehicles of severe violators and a demerit (point) system that could lead to the confiscation of repeat offenders' driving licenses.

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