The December holidays always bring turmoil and carnage to South African roads, but this year has seen the number of road fatalities reduced by 18%.

Statistics released by the Department of Transport show that the number of deaths in December had dropped by 263 from the previous year. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal registered the highest number of fatalities in 2007.

According to the Star on Monday, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) identified some of the deadliest highways: the N2 between East London and Mthatha with 17 fatalities; the N3 between Estcourt and Harrismith with 12; and the N1 between Touws River and Laingsburg with eight fatalities.

In KwaZulu-Natal, a metro police spokesperson for the eThekwini municipality, Senior Superintendent Thozamile Tyala, told the Mail & Guardian Online that 11 000 tickets were issued in the municipality for traffic violations. Of those tickets, those that were issued for speeding numbered 6 000.

Also, “120 people were arrested for drunken driving, but this is only in the eThekwini area,” said Tyala.

The biggest worry, he said, was the number of people speeding. “They not only put themselves at risk but also innocent people.”

The fastest drivers in the municipality were recorded on the M4 and Higginson Highway stretches in Durban.

“One serious accident was on the M4. A GTI [Volkswagen] Golf, which was speeding, met in a serious accident. The four occupants of the car died instantly. In another incident on Higginson Highway, two vehicles collided and burst into flames. Five people died in that incident.”

He said that 120 extra metro police officers were recruited from the force’s training college to help during the festive season.

“Although we are over the festive season we really appreciate the cooperation we’ve had from the public. We urge them to keep on cooperating and not to speed. If the public see someone committing a traffic violation, we urge them to come forward and tell us, so that we can make the streets safer.”

High volumes of traffic continued to stream into Gauteng on Monday and were expected till Tuesday, with the new school term in the province starting on Wednesday.

Overall figures for the festive season will be released by Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe on Tuesday.