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When a Boeing 737 crashed in Iran at the beginning of January, 176 people were killed. The incident dominated headlines and much grief was expressed over the needless tragedy. Many South Africans are among those left shaken by the incident but what they may not realise is that an even bigger tragedy was suffered in our own country and has been suffered every holiday period for many years.

According to the report on road deaths during the December 2019/January 2020 period, released today, 1 617 people died on our roads. That is 9,2 times more people than what died in the plane crash. Additionally, this figure is 10% lower than the same period last year.

The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says the reduction in road fatalities is something to be commended and a step in the right direction. “Yet, we still have some way to go. The road fatalities that South Africa has in only one and a half months is close to what countries like Namibia, Lesotho and Gambia see in an entire year on average.


“The number of people arrested or penalised for reckless driving suggests that this remains a major cause behind the high crash rates. We urge South Africans to take these statistics to heart. The thought of nine Boeing 737 crashes is sobering but if you were to make a similar analogy for the entire year’s road fatalities it is equal to 80 of the plane crashes that occurred in Iran.”

With this image of the death and destruction caused by crashes on our roads each year, South Africans may be asking what can we do about it? “Before we can change the driving behaviour of others, we first need to look at ourselves. With taxi drivers regularly committing offences on our roads, many drivers erroneously assume it is the ‘other driver’ guilty for the state of the roads. Yet, a perception exists amongst South African drivers that they are entitled to commit offences because other drivers do so and get away with it.

“Another concerning perception is that change on the roads lies solely in the hands of law enforcement. While law enforcers play a critical role in penalising bad driving behaviour, they alone cannot be responsible for the magnitude of change that we need to see. We should not become a nation that bases our decision to drive recklessly on whether or not we are caught by police. Each driver needs to commit to driving defensively and within the confines of the law of their own accord if we are to see genuine change.”

MasterDrive sends their sincere condolences to every family affected by a crash this holiday season. 

Other stats revealed during this period:

  • The number of crashes that resulted in fatalities decreased by 3%
  • KwaZulu Natal had the highest number of fatalities followed by Gauteng and Limpopo respectively
  • The highest reduction in fatalities occurred in the Free State, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape respectively