In the near future, motorists will be able to determine just how safe South Africa’s roads are, by using a map where green indicates a safe road, and with red warning that a road should remain less travelled. Orange, in turn, would warn motorists to exercise some caution when using a particular road.

The map will be produced once the project to assess the safety of South African roads has been completed.

KwaZulu-Natal was the first province to have its roads assessed.

Automobile Association (AA) public affairs manager Gary Ronald says once this data has been processed, the AA-facilitated project will move on to the next province.

The KwaZulu-Natal data was collected by ADAC – the German counterpart to the AA – in a specially designed Mercedes-Benz Vito.

The Vito is equipped with a variety of cameras and electronic sensors, which allow the crew to objectively establish just how safe a stretch of road is.

The team of German experts travelled 4 000 km on KwaZulu-Natal roads, finally handing their information to the KwaZulu-Natal traffic authorities, who were part of the pilot project.

The assessment of South Africa’s roads forms part of a 30-country project.

The International Roads Assessment Pro-gramme (Irap) started off in Europe as the sister project of the European New Car Assessment Programme – the famous NCAP programme which crash-tests cars to establish just how safe they are. The initiative involves several groups, including auto clubs and development banks.

Ronald says Irap focuses on what can be done to make roads safer, without having to spend a large amount of money.

“For example, the height difference between the edge of the tar and the gravel can be such that a motorist requires a 4 10005 4 to get on and off the road.

“Guard rails make a road safer, as do pedestrian walkways and clearly visible road markings.

“Simply cutting the grass or improving the visibility of road signs also may make a road materially safer.

Removing trees or other obstructions may create a safe run-off area for motorists who, for one reason or another, lose control,” explains Ronald.

Irap is focused especially on developing countries, where road deaths are expected to increase by 80% over the next few years – while it is expected to drop in developed countries.

Ronald says there were 15 353 deaths on South Africa’s roads last year, and about 800 000 collisions. This year, the death toll is expected to be somewhere between 17 000 and 25 000.

As a trend, 42% of these are pedestrians, of whom 70% are under the influence of alcohol.