PRETORIA: South Africa pledged to toughen penalities for reckless road users after more than 1,600 people were killed in traffic accidents over the six-week festive season, the transport minister said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in the capital Pretoria, Blade Nzimande said 1,612 people had died in 1,286 traffic crashes between December 1, 2018 and January 8, 2019.
Excessive speeding and drunk driving were common contributors to the seven-percent increase in deaths compared to the previous year.
“Our roads continue to be slaughterhouses,” Nzimande said. “More than 80 percent of accidents are as a result of the human factor such as drunken driving and driving and texting.”
The department had nearly doubled the number of roadblocks to 775 in the period and arrested 8,507 people over the holidays, when many South Africans head from large cities to the coast or provincial areas.
Nzimande said the government would push to reclassify drunken driving and bring in harsher punishments for offenders.
The department will also be tougher on corrupt officers who accept bribes and on administrative officials who fraudulently issue driving licenses.
“People joke about how they can afford to break the rules as long as they have got a spare 1,000 zar ($72) in the pocket, they know they are going to negotiate their way through,” Nzimande said. “We coming for them in a big way.”
Over the holidays, 17 traffic officers were arrested for corruption. —AFP