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Road safety is everyone’s responsibility

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While South Africa has a target to reduce road fatalities by 50% by the year 2030, this is overshadowed by the country’s status as one of the most dangerous places to drive, with high rates of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. This is especially true when compared to other modes of transportation.

This is the view of Lizo Mnguni, spokesperson at Old Mutual Insure, who says that the accident and road fatality rate in the country remains at a crisis point.

Research by the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) suggests that the annual cost of fatalities and serious injuries due to road accidents in South Africa is about $18.9 billion – or about 6.4% of GDP. In addition, based on figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 14 500 people die due to road accidents in South Africa every year, while around 145 000 suffer serious injuries.

“While road safety is a shared responsibility that involves multiple stakeholders, including car manufacturers, vehicle insurers and governments, there is a lot that drivers can do to improve road safety,” says Lizo Mnguni, spokesperson for Old Mutual Insure.

He says human behaviour contributes a significant deal to road injuries and fatalities, with drunk driving, speeding, the use of cell phones, and other bad behaviours accounting for most of the carnage on South Africa’s roads.

“Many accidents can be prevented if drivers actively commit to driving more responsibly,” says Mnguni.

Mnguni says that road accidents are a major cause of insurance claims, and Old Mutual Insure is committed to improving road safety in the country, for everyone. This is one of the reasons the company sponsors the prestigious 2023 South African Car of the Year (COTY) competition, presented by the South African Guild of Mobility Journalists (SAGMJ), which celebrates innovation in the motoring world. Mnguni says that initiatives like these – together with corporate programmes – can play an important role in changing the mindset of drivers.

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“Quality and innovation in the motoring world benefits everyone, as safer vehicles, for instance, would likely lead to fewer vehicle accidents, hi-jackings, and theft; however, innovation comes to naught if drivers do not practice road safety,” says Mnguni.

Below Mnguni lists important insurance considerations to help keep motorists safe on the roads.

Third-party insurance is not enough

Mnguni says that third-party insurance is intended to protect policyholders from legal liability to compensate other road users for property damage they might have caused. However, a significant barrier to improved road safety of the national fleet is that there are so many uninsured, and unroadworthy vehicles on our roads. Of the estimated 11 million cars and drivers on the country’s roads, only about one third, approximately 3.5 million cars, are insured. This means that if a driver is in an accident, the chances are high that involves an uninsured driver.

Trackers and add-ons like dashcams improve road safety

Mnguni says that telematics can greatly improve driver behaviour. Advanced telematics can warn drivers when they are speeding, or even when they are distracted. They also help to document driving, and record things like accidents, which can not only help keep drivers safe, but also deters theft and can lower insurance premiums.

He offers the below tips for drivers to take charge of their own safety on the roads:

• Make sure that your vehicle is in a roadworthy condition before departure.
• Obey the speed limit – Speed is the highest contributing factor in fatal accidents. You can make a difference on the roads by simply driving at the speed limit. Consider this – it’s better to arrive at your destination safely than quickly
• Guard against distractions while driving, and always ensure all vehicle occupants wear a seat belt.
• Take your vehicle for a full check before embarking on your holiday travels.
“It is important to be aware of the real risks on the roads and take appropriate measures to address them. By promoting better driving habits, leveraging advanced safety technologies, and enforcing road safety regulations, we can all play a role in making our roads safer for everyone,” concludes Mnguni.

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