Accidental crashes into pillars are pretty rare – but many people die on South African roads every year
- South Africa has a per-capita death rate far higher than the global average, though lower than all our neighbours.
- Speed is a major contributor to fatalities.
- Crashes into fixed objects such as pillars represented only 2.1% of accidents in 2017.
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Every year approximately 1.35 million people die on the world’s roads. South Africa contributes more than 14,000 fatalities to this figure.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 25 out of every 100,000 people in South Africa die in road accidents. Arrive Alive points out that many of these are pedestrians, who account for 38% of fatalities. But people travelling inside the vehicles still make up the majority of deaths, at 59%.
South Africa’s per capita road death rate of 25.2 per 100,000 is markedly higher than the global average. According to the WHO, the global average is 20.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
Although low- and middle-income countries only have approximately 60% of the world’s cars, they still account for 93% of the deaths. Because of this, the number of deaths varies significantly according to global regions.
Africa has the worst per capita road death rate, where 26.6 people out 100,000 die in fatal crashes. This is followed by South East Asia’s 20.7.
The Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Americas are between 15 and 20. Europe has the lowest rate of all WHO regions, with fewer than 10 deaths per 100,000 people.
In spite of South Africa’s higher than average road death rate, it’s still doesn’t feature in the global top ten. Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Tanzania, Thailand, Rwanda, Mozambique, Togo, Malawi, and Burkina Faso all have per capita death rates of 30 or higher.
South Africa also doesn’t fare too badly compared to its neighbours, either. The only neighbouring country with fewer deaths is Botswana, at 23.8. Namibia (30.4), Zimbabwe (34.7), Mozambique (30.1), eSwatini (26.9) and Lesotho (28.9) all have higher rates.
The WHO cites “rapid urbanisation, poor safety standards, lack of enforcement, people driving distracted or fatigued, others under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding and a failure to wear seat-belts or helmets” as the leading causes of accidents and deaths around the world.
And in South Africa, human factors are still the leading cause of fatal road accidents. According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), 91% of fatal crashes in 2017 were down to human factors.
By comparison, road and environmental factors contributed 5%, and vehicle factors just 3%.
Underpinning most fatal accidents is vehicle speed. This is the leading cause of fatalities in car accidents around the world - most organisations agree that the greater the speed, the higher the risk of serious injury or death.
Aside from jaywalking pedestrians, nothing causes more car accident-related deaths in South Africa than drivers who travel too fast for the circumstances, says the RTMC. Of all the fatal accidents in the country in 2017, 10% were due to drivers travelling at an excessive speed.
The RTMC also has a record of the types of crashes in South Africa. The most common of these are head-on collisions, followed by multiple vehicle crash, single vehicle overturned, and t-bone crash.
Crashes into fixed objects, such as barriers and pillars, was responsible for 2.1% of accidents in 2017.
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