Car crash
  • Official numbers take a while to compile, but anecdotal evidence suggests car crashes were way, way down in South Africa last weekend, after bars closed early and everyone was encouraged to stay home.
  • Emergency services say callouts to serious incidents plummeted from the normal weekend before.
  • The coming, payday weekend would normally have seen carnage on South Africa's roads – before a national lockdown was announced.
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Lockdown Lite – with restrictions on alcohol sales and a call for everyone to stay home – saw a huge reduction in car crashes on the weekend of 21 and 22 March in South Africa, anecdotal evidence suggests.

And that was before Lockdown Proper this coming payday weekend, which would typically have seen carnage on the roads.

Official fatality and accident statistics take some time to become available (even under normal circumstances when organisations and departments are not scrambling to deal with Covid-19), but reports from emergency responders leave little doubt as to what those official numbers will show.

On a normal weekend ER24's contact centre will deal with between 217 and 308 transport emergencies, said the organisation's communications manager Werner Vermaak. That includes motor vehicle collisions, pedestrian accidents, motorbike accidents, and the like, counted between Friday and Sunday.

By contrast, ER24 responded to 159 transport emergencies between 27 March and 29 March, Vermaak's statistics showed, down between a quarter and one half of typical incidents.

"Overall and without doing deep analytics, it is safe to say that we have definitely seen a decrease of transportation emergencies last weekend," said Vermaak.

Stabbings and other incidents were down too.

It was not only car crashes, there were also fewer assaults and stabbings during the weekend of Lockdown Lite, said Farah Williams, the operations manager at the community-based Rescue 786 Ambulance Services. Even other incidents, such as accidents at work, decreased.

"Weekend call rates dropped dramatically," said Williams.

Similar reductions were reported by various other emergency responders, and emergency room staff. Normally over-crowded trauma centres were left with time to kill, and the huge Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Johannesburg – where 70% of admission are emergencies – saw a decline across its emergency surgical, trauma, and medical emergency units, the Gauteng department of health confirmed.

Mediclinic also confirmed to Business Insider that some of its emergency centres reported lower volumes this weekend."Further analysis would be required to understand if this was directly attributable to the public consumption of alcohol," the company said in a statement.

South Africa has among the worst road safety records in the world, with fatalities remaining high for the past three decades, despite a variety of projects and initiatives aimed at changing that.

Restricting the sale of alcohol has not been among those measures.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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