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UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety to launch global road safety campaign in South Africa

UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety to launch global road safety campaign in South Africa

Billboard promoting road safety in South Africa

The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, will visit South Africa from 13 to 15 May 2024 to support national and local authorities’ road safety initiatives. In particular, the Special Envoy will launch the UN Global Campaign for Road Safety, in partnership with the No.1 outdoor advertising company worldwide, JCDecaux, under the hashtag #MakeASafetyStatement.  

One of the main goals of this campaign is to raise awareness of life-saving actions among young generations, who as statistics show, are the major victims of road crashes especially for young people aged from 5 to 29 years old worldwide. Supporting the efforts of South Africa in addressing this issue is key in a country where more than 60% of the population is under 35 years old. 

The launch events are to be held in Johannesburg and Pretoria with the participation of the Minister of Transport of South Africa and the Executive Mayors of Tshwane and Johannesburg.   

Mr. Todt will meet members of the Government as well as representatives of the private and public sectors and NGOs to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which aims to halve the number of road fatalities by 2030.  

"Africa is the continent most affected by road crashes. Knowing that these affect the youngest first, it is beyond the human tragedy, an economic devastation sacrificing or invalidating for life the active force of a country. While the vaccine to avoid this carnage on the road exists, I urgently call on everyone to use it," said the Special Envoy.


Ten South African celebrities including Yvonne Chaka-Chaka, Bryoni Govender, Dr. Khumalo, Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Maduvha Madima, Leanne Manas, Dr. Moratwe Masima, Thokozani Ndaba, Gaisang Noge, and Caster Semenya, will join the campaign’s worldwide ambassadors to encourage users to adopt simple but effective rules to keep their roads safe. 

“Human Factors contribute 88% to South African road fatalities and therefore the involvement of celebrities as role models for the Youth in the #MakeASafetyStatement campaign will contribute towards the reduction of accidents on our roads,” stressed Ms. Sindisiwe Lydia Chikunga, Minister of Transport of the Republic of South Africa. 

New alarming figures 

The Special Envoy’s visit coincides with the recent release of the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023 from the World Health Organization (WHO) on road safety, highlighting that Africa remains the region the most affected by this tragedy. 

According to the WHO report, the number of victims on African roads continues to grow with a mortality rate of 19/100,000 people, while in Europe, we observe a rate of 7 deaths/100,000 people. In South Africa, there are 25 deaths per 100,000 people.  

According to the World Bank (2016), the cost of road crashes represented 8.6% of South Africa’s GDP in 2016.  The RTMC 2023 State of Road safety Report highlights for 2023 the rate of 2.74% of South Africa 's GDP.    

Reliable data for swift revitalization 

Recent bus accidents have highlighted the run-down state of Africa's vehicle fleet. Failure to comply with the Highway Code and to enforce penalties are also significant causes of accidents.  

Solutions to be implemented include adhering to the African Road Safety Charter and the United Nations Conventions on Road Safety, strengthening the health services that treat the injured and stepping up public awareness campaigns. Systematically collecting reliable data on road accidents and monitoring casualties is also a key element in reducing the number of victims. 

There is also a need to protect the most vulnerable road users, pedestrians, and cyclists, who are often the most disadvantaged and the youngest. Africa has the highest proportion of cyclist and pedestrian deaths, accounting for 44% of all road deaths.  

In South Africa, the efforts of the authorities are to be commended, with new initiatives such as the implementation of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences, the adoption of new technologies to enhance access to traffic licensing services (National Traffic Information System Online Services), the professionalization of the Traffic and Road Safety Officers Training through the National Framework Level 6 Qualification), Standardization and Harmonization of Traffic Law Enforcement and the development of a National Traffic Law Enforcement Code.   

Risk factors that are too often neglected 

Drink-driving, speeding, drowsiness, carelessness, non-use of seatbelts and helmets, negligence and non-compliance with the Highway Code are responsible for most road accidents in Africa. However, according to the WHO, more progress must be made regarding legislation and safety standards.   

Only six countries in the world have laws that comply with WHO best practices for all the risk factors - speeding, driving under the influence or distracted driving, use of UN-standard motorbike helmets, and use of seatbelts and child restraints. 

In South Africa, speeding in urban areas is high (60KM/h), and child restraint systems are not always available. At a time when the use of motorbikes is on the increase, particularly among young people, the wearing of seatbelts and quality helmets remains a real challenge, even though it could prevent many deaths and reduce the risk of serious injury by 69%.  

Recent data reveal that the majority of road crashes occur at night from Friday till Sunday with youth and pedestrians being the lead victims.   

Countries: South Africa

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