The daily death toll for the period 1 to 30 December is the highest in history according to driving skills specialist, Rob Handfield - Jones, who has monitored Christmas and Easter death tolls since 2007. His claims have been disputed by the Road Traffic Management Corporation.
"1184 deaths took place over this period, in other words 39.5 deaths per day. This exceeds the record figure of 38 per day for the 2012 festive season," Handfield - Jones said. "The Christmas period for 2013/2014 will end on 13 January, by which time I expect the death toll to be approximately 1736 deaths based on past and current trends," he added.
He said this figure would rise by 15% to 20% by the time the 30-day waiting period for traffic fatalities had elapsed, meaning that Christmas 2013/2014 could become the first festive season in which more than 2000 traffic fatalities took place.
He said the main reason for the ever-increasing festive death toll was the failure of government to provide road safety leadership. "People only drive as badly as their governments allow them to," he commented. "In countries like the USA and United Kingdom, it is socially unacceptable to be a bad driver; government road safety systems in those countries are aimed at improving competence."
He said the South African picture was the opposite. "The RTMC showed a brief flash of intent while Gilberto Martins was Acting CEO, but has since gone silent. Licensing is a corrupt mess with probably half of all licences being issued fraudulently," he said. "This creates a culture of bribery among drivers who forget that when it comes to driving, a fake licence acquired by bribery can be deadly," he added.
Asked what needed to be done, he said the top three government priorities should be to rectify the poor gathering of statistical road safety data, overhaul the licensing system and prioritise the enforcement of moving violations. "As long as the key priority of law enforcers is revenue generation rather than safety, South Africa's road deaths will continue to mount," he concluded.