SA motorists urged to Think Pedestrian

16 April 2012

A new campaign, driven by the United Nations and backed by local companies, has been launched to improve safety on South Africa’s roads by changing the behaviour of both motorists and pedestrians.

The “Think Pedestrian” campaign is expected to run for a decade, and hopes are high that it will curb the high number of road deaths in South Africa.

In South Africa, Think Pedestrian is endorsed by logistics company Eqstra and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, in support of Nelson Mandela Day. It will be piloted in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga province.

40% of road deaths pedestrians

Speaking at the launch in Johannesburg last week, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said pedestrians accounted for more than 40% of deaths on South Africa’s roads.

It is estimated that there are around 40 vehicle accidents a day and 14 000 a year countrywide.

Ndebele said South Africa was seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. The number of road crashes over the Easter weekend, traditionally a dangerous time to be out and about, dropped to 181 from last year’s 215, according to preliminary statistics released by the Road Traffic Management Corporation.

Community road safety councils

However, he warned that there was still a long way to go, and urged South Africans to help the government achieve its 2020 goal of cutting road fatalities by half.

Ndebele called on community members to join the road safety councils set up by the Department of Transport in their area. “They aim to work with communities in inculcating a culture of responsibility with regard to the use of the road.”

The community councils were also tasked with identifying local road safety hazards, and getting people interested in helping to resolve them.

Eqstra MD Murray Price said the Think Pedestrian campaign would consist of a range of campaigns designed to change road user behaviour.

‘Attitude is the problem’

“The problem is not about how good or bad drivers and pedestrians are,” Price said “Attitude is the problem. We have to educate our people about the importance of observing the rules of the road. We can save lives by doing so.”

Price said a task team would identify accident hotspots across the country’s roads as the campaign spread to other provinces. “We will be guided by the Department of Transport in identifying these places. From there we can evaluate the root cause of the problem.”

The campaign would also include installing road signs and speed bumps and patching potholes in line with each area’s needs.

A golf tournament would soon be launched to raise funds for the campaign. “It will be played annually until the 10-year period lapses,” Price said.

Collins Letsoalo, acting manager of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, said road safety awareness campaigns run on an annual basis were already under way to support the Think Pedestrian campaign.

One of the was Think Bike, an NGO run entirely by volunteers, that encouraged motorists to be considerate and tolerant of two-wheeled road users.

Dr Francis Kasolo, representing the UN, said South Africa was setting the pace by launching the campaign a year earlier than many other countries.

Source: City of Johannesburg