'Nowhere to hide': traffic cops get body cameras, drones to curb Easter carnage

In 2020 under the lockdown 38 people died on the roads during Easter weekend

Deputy transport minister Dikeledi Magadzi. File picture.
Deputy transport minister Dikeledi Magadzi. File picture.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN

Traffic officers will be equipped with body cameras and drones in a bolstered effort to curb the number of road fatalities during the Easter weekend.

Deputy transport minister Dikeledi Magadzi confirmed the use of this technology during the Monday launch of the country's 2021 Easter road safety campaign at Bapoba Mogale tribal authority in the North West.

“We are now ready to issue our traffic officers with body cameras to support them in evidence gathering and improve the conviction rate for violations of traffic laws. As the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) rolls out the use of body cameras within the fraternity over the next three to five years, we aim to improve the levels of service and ensure that this is executed to serve and protect our road users,” Magadzi said.

Magadzi said the cameras will also act as a deterrent for corruption, such as the soliciting or acceptance of bribes from motorists.

“Every interaction a traffic law enforcement officer has with a motorist will be recorded. Starting this Easter, there will be nowhere to hide for those who live beyond their means and finance their lavish lifestyles through bribes, at the expense of law-abiding citizens on the roads,” she warned.

She said traffic law enforcement would not be an enrichment scheme for unethical, unscrupulous, greedy and corrupt officers who undermine efforts to enforce discipline on the roads and halt the carnage.

“We also have plans to strengthen our e-law enforcement by investing in drones. These drones will assist us to proactively identify hazards on the roads, and to identify motorists who are driving recklessly and at unacceptably high speeds,” she warned.

She said officers will then be deployed strategically to respond using live intelligence supplied by drones.

She said consultations are still ongoing with the justice crime prevention and security cluster to ensure that evidence gathered through the use of drones was admissible and would lead to a higher conviction rate.

Six people were killed in a vehicle accident just hours before the launch.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula. File image.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula. File image.
Image: Sunday Times

Magadzi said a BMW travelling towards Welkom and a Toyota Avanza travelling towards Theunissen collided, killing the six. A mother and her two toddlers and a man travelling in the Avanza and the driver of the BMW and a passenger died on the scene.

Magadzi said: “The four-day Easter weekend is a period where we lose no less than 230 lives each year. In 2020, despite the hard lockdown and travel restrictions, 38 people lost their lives.

“This is a tragedy that could have been avoided. We must work harder to reverse the tide and preserve human life on our roads.”

Magadzi said the government cannot continue using the same tactics that have not worked in the past, hoping to achieve different results.

She said the coronavirus pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges, not only to the economy, but to the day-to-day operations in many sectors, including transport.

“The relentless assault and threat to human life by the Covid-19 pandemic requires of us to sustain our vigilance and not give in to fatigue in adhering to health protocols and embracing the new normal.”

She said that the majority of fatal crashes occur at night. “More than 70% of the hit-and-runs happen at night.”

Magadzi encouraged road users to avoid travelling at night, not only to observe the curfew hours but also keep safe from the hazards that are mostly prevalent at night.

“From the road crash information analysed, one in five fatal crashes are simply single vehicles overturning. This is driven by various contributory factors, which include excessive speeding, fatigue, drinking and driving, driving under the influence of narcotics, as well as overloading of passengers and goods,” she said.

She said the RTMC has estimated that the country has lost more than R143bn due to road accidents in 2020.

The country ended the 2020 festive season road safety campaign on a positive note after eight provinces recorded a decline in road fatalities.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula said the 2020 festive season road statistics from December 1 to January 11 showed traffic volumes decreased from 1,556,704 in 2019 to 1,419,782.

Mbalula said more than half of the fatal crashes occurred on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays.

There were a total of 1,448 fatalities from 1,210 fatal crashes during the festive season. Mbalula said this represented a 7% decline in fatalities and a 10.3% decline in fatal crashes, year on year.

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