AA on the impact of poor road infrastructure on road safety in South Africa

Crumbling local and provincial infrastructure is contributing to South Africa’s poor road safety levels and must be addressed urgently if meaningful strides to improve the country’s horrendous road safety record are to be made.

The Automobile Association (AA) says dangerous potholed streets, inoperative streetlights, blocked stormwater drains, pollution-filled rivers and streams which overflow, and unkept sidewalks and traffic islands are among the issues that require attention and should be prioritized by local and provincial authorities.

“All too often human behaviour is blamed for road crashes when, in fact, prevailing road conditions are the culprit. Research shows that there is an upward trajectory showing just how poor road environments contribute to fatal car crashes.

“When we hear of the high number of pedestrians who are killed annually in South Africa we must ask if sufficient provision is being made for this road user group on our roads. Are there adequate sidewalks for them to walk on, or are they forced onto the road surface with other vehicles? Are streetlights always working to make them visible when they walk early in the morning or at night? Are there sufficient crossings and bridges for pedestrians to cross busy roads and highways, or are they forced to take chances that may, ultimately, lead to severe injuries or even death?” asks the Association.

Added to the mix, the AA says, is fast deteriorating infrastructure where, it appears, there is minimal effort to ensure proper upkeep.

“When it rains in certain areas, roads become gridlocked as even small streams become impassable. Stormwater drains are clogged resulting in torrents of water flowing down busy roads, making it impossible for vehicles to use them. New potholes are created, and existing potholes get even bigger and deeper. Actions by motorists who swerve to avoid hitting these potholes, which then result in crashes, is ascribed to human error, which it is not; it’s road error caused by poor maintenance,” notes the AA.

The Association says poorly maintained road markings and road signage is another problem.

“Road markings and signage are there for a reason and should be well maintained but this is also neglected, sadly in many high-traffic areas where it is especially needed. Road users are vulnerable in these situations because the markings and signs which control and direct traffic are ineffective,” says the AA.

The Association says road users across South Africa should actively report incidents of maintenance failure to their local authorities,

“We know all too well that such an approach often yields limited results, but we believe it’s still a necessary step in dealing with problems and getting things working right. It’s a critical first step along with engaging with local councillors and community leaders,” says the AA.

The Association says if targets to reduce road fatalities in South Africa are to be met – such as halving the number of road deaths in the country by 2030 – urgent attention must be paid to road and municipal infrastructure, or these targets will remain unattainable.