KwaZulu-Natal project will provide clear guidelines on how to improve province’s roads to prevent accidents

KWAZULU-Natal roads will be rated in much the same way as hotels and new cars, giving motorists an idea of the relative safety of the roads they travel on and showing authorities what they can do to make roads safer.

At present, fatal road accidents cost SA R43bn every year. National Department of Transport statistics show about 800000 accidents of all types occur every year. According to the Automobile Association’s statistics, these accidents cause about 42 deaths and leave 23 people permanently disabled every day.

Gary Ronald, a spokesman for the AA, says that road accidents can be attributed to three factors human, vehicle and road conditions. All play a part in accidents. While traffic authorities have had some success in clamping down on unroadworthy vehicles and removing unfit drivers from the road, not much attention has been paid to improving the physical conditions of roads.

A recent pilot project in KwaZulu Natal is assessing what can be done to improve roads to make them safer. The scheme kicked off a few months ago when the Automobile Association, together with the International Roads Assessment Programme, brought a specially equipped Mercedes-Benz Vito, designed to assess the relative safety of roads.

The Vito is equipped with a variety of cameras and electronic sensors that allow the crew to establish objectively just how safe a stretch of road is. A team of German experts travelled 4000km on KwaZulu Natal roads, and the information collected has been handed to the KwaZulu-Natal traffic authorities, who are part of the pilot project.

The International Roads Assessment Programme began in Europe as the sister project of the European New Car Assessment Programme — the famous NCAP programme that crash-tests cars to establish how safe they are, or aren’t.

Ronald says the evaluation looked at ways that roads can be made safer.

“In many cases it is cheap to improve the safety of roads. For example, simply cutting grass or improving the visibility of road signs may make a road materially safer. The assessment programme also looked at what can be done to improve road safety by altering existing roads to make them safer.

“For example, changing the way drains or kerbing is made may make it less likely that a car hitting the side of the road would lose control or flip. Removing trees or obstructions may create a safe run-off area for motorists who lose control and leave the road.

“We expect the report from EuroRAP some time in September.”