Safety on our roads must be a year-round priority, not just a PR programme rolled out by the Department of Transport over the festive season.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was devasted to hear of yet another bus accident, which recently claimed the lives of 30 people, including three children, in the Eastern Cape. We would like to convey our deepest sympathies to the families of those killed in the accident.
On the morning of 20 August, there was another serious accident reported in Cape Town, where a scholar transport vehicle apparently crashed outside Parliament. According to media reports, 22 pupils and the driver were injured, and there were allegedly 24 learners in the minibus taxi.
According to the National Land Transport Act, 2009, all vehicles offering public transport services must obtain an operating license, which is valid for a period of seven years. In order to qualify for such licence, a current roadworthy certificate must also be produced.
We would like to suggest that all vehicles being used for public transportation – be it for members of the public, or learners – be held to more stringent standards. International best-practice should be followed when it comes to vehicle maintenance and roadworthiness.
Further, the Department of Transport needs to maintain the levels of vigilance year-round, with buses and minibus taxis transporting learners being stopped and inspected regularly, to ensure they meet the necessary safety standards. Simple checks could ensure that, for instance, only 16 learners (the legal limit) would have been involved in this morning’s accident in Cape Town, rather than 24.
According to the 2020 National Household Travel Survey in South Africa (NHTS), 2.1 million households rely on buses as their mode of transport, yet this industry appears woefully under-regulated as regards the safety of passengers.
The Eastern Cape accident is currently under investigation by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), however, more needs to be done. Although the Eastern Cape Premier has allegedly said that “road infrastructure cannot be blamed for the accident”, questions must be asked about road safety.
As the IFP, we believe preventative measures can be put in place, particularly on sections of road known to have a high accident rate. We suggest the following:
- Safety barriers must be put up, with reinforced barriers to be used for high-risk stretches of road;
- Appropriate measures must put in place to deter road users from exceeding the speed limit, such as installing flashing lights in areas that are particularly hazardous, to encourage road users to proceed with caution.
In addition, we suggest that buses used for public transport should have governed speed limits (which can be set by the manufacturer), so as to make it impossible for the vehicles to exceed a certain speed.
If checks are in place to ensure that buses are roadworthy, there must be similar requirements in place for bus drivers. For example, we recommend that drivers undergo a breathalyser test before being cleared to drive. Further, once on the road, there needs to be a limit on the number of hours drivers of long-distance buses are allowed to drive, as well as a mandatory rest period. A sleep-deprived driver is as dangerous as one who is under the influence.
The IFP has long been calling for stronger regulations for the scholar transport sector. Learners have to no choice but to accept the transport provided, and it is the responsibility of the Departments of Transport and Basic Education to ensure that the transport provided adheres to the highest safety standards.
As the IFP, we believe that many of the recent tragic bus accidents could have been avoided by implementing our recommendations. We will take the opportunity to ask the difficult questions in Parliament, as well as in future engagements with the Minister of Transport.
Hon. KP Sithole, MP
IFP Spokesperson on Transport
072 784 1909