SA traffic
  • The latest traffic congestion data shows that South African city roads are still much quieter than last year.
  • Johannesburg drivers are currently spending 28% less time in traffic than a year ago.
  • But in Durban, traffic is much closer to normalised levels.
  • For more articles, go to www.businessinsider.co.za/.

South African traffic levels are still far quieter than before lockdown – as the work-from-home trend continues to keep drivers off the roads.

Last week’s traffic congestion data from TomTom, maker of navigation devices, shows that Johannesburg drivers are spending 28% less time stuck in traffic than in the same week a year ago.

A month ago, it was at 37% below last year’s congestion levels – although somewhat recovered from the height of the lockdown, when traffic congestion was 70% lower than the previous year.

Johannesburg congestion levels. Source: TomTom

Before government instituted the nationwide lockdown in March, Johannesburg congestion was worse than in 2019. And last year, the average Joburg driver lost 74 hours in congestion, according to the INRIX 2019 Global Traffic Scorecard.

This was, however, much better than Cape Town, where drivers lost 124 hours in standstill traffic.  

This year, the picture will look completely different for Cape Town drivers, where hours spent in traffic congestion last week were still 24% lower than a year ago. As recently as October, congestion was 35% lower.

Cape Town congestion levels. Source: TomTom

Pretoria is also seeing congestion at 27% lower levels than a year ago.

Pretoria congestion levels. Source: TomTom

In Bloemfontein, traffic congestion is 20% lower. 

Bloemfontein congestion levels. Source: TomTom

But in Durban, traffic is much closer to “normal levels”, and last week was only 15% below a year ago. 

Durban traffic levels. Source: TomTom

It is an open question whether traffic will ever recover to pre-pandemic congestion levels.

Many companies gave up their office space during the lockdown after being able to maintain productivity levels with employees working from home. Almost 13% of South African offices are now standing empty – the highest rate in 16 years.

Santam, for example, believes that driving habits may change. It has therefore introduced a distance-based rating for their clients, that was prompted by reduced driving during the pandemic, but will remain in place afterwards.

“With this feature, clients who work from home or travel less than they would normally can benefit from a discount on their motor-premium. This will be achieved by offering distance-based rating categories for vehicles, which will be based on kilometres predicted to be travelled per renewal period,” a spokesperson told Business Insider South Africa.

Automobile Association’s Layton Beard believes driving patterns might permanently change – but this may mean more congestion in the suburbs. 

“If people aren’t returning to the office, there will still be people living locally. Yes, there might not be as much traffic going on major routes like the N1 or N2, but there may be a bigger build up in local areas,” he says.

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