Drunken pedestrians were involved in about a third of the 810 accidents on South African roads since the beginning of the month, and transport authorities expect these figures to get worse during New Year celebrations.

The transport department said 375 of the 905 people killed on SA’s roads this month were drunken pedestrians.

“By far the greater percentage of pedestrians injured or killed on our roads are found to have high levels of alcohol in their bloodstream at the time of the accident,” spokesman Collen Msibi said.

The department said pedestrians often underestimated the speed of an approaching vehicle, and overestimated their distance from the vehicle.

Since the beginning of the festive season Gauteng has had the most accidents with 195, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 143. Northern Cape has had the least, at 16.

Msibi advised pedestrians to wear brightly coloured clothes at night, to avoid walking on or crossing freeways, and to cross roads at intersections or pedestrian bridges.

Transport Minister Jeff Radebe said recently that more than 14000 people died on South African roads each year.

About half of those killed were pedestrians.

Estimates suggest the cost to the economy of such deaths and injuries is about R43bn a year.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation, a division of the transport department, recently said most accidents involved inexperienced drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 .

It said young drivers were up to three times more likely to be involved in an accident than more experienced motorists.

Young men were more likely to be involved in accidents. These accidents happened at night, and often did not involve other vehicles. High speed, loss of control, fatigue, alcohol and drugs were contributing factors .

“Young men, in particular, are often overconfident of their driving skills,” it said.

A transport department study last year found that SA fell far outside global best practice in terms of road safety.

The report said SA’s roads were among the deadliest in the world — with at least 16 fatalities reported for every 10000 vehicles in 2005.

“In terms of unnatural deaths, traffic-related fatalities fall in seventh place, after HIV/AIDS, heart attacks, lung disease, homicide, violence and strokes,” the report said.

The World Bank estimates that if nothing effective is done, by 2020 road crashes will be the second-biggest cause of unnatural deaths in developing countries.

It also estimates the global cost of road crashes to be $500bn a year — $60bn of it borne by developing countries.