South Africa’s roads could claim more lives than HIV and Aids and malaria combined by 2020, if accidents are not prevented, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said on Sunday.

He was speaking at the funeral, in Queenstown, of six people who died in a taxi accident on the N6 freeway last week.

“The continent of Africa has the most dangerous roads in the world,” said Ndebele

“Unless we do something about it today, soon we will find that in 2020 roads will kill more people than those who die from HIV and malaria put together,” he said.

In South Africa road crashes claimed the lives of more than 16 000 people a year – half of them pedestrians – and cost the country more than R14bn a year.

Ndebele questioned whether the Arrive Alive campaign was working as people continue to die.

“Is it because we have too many cars on our roads that we have so many accidents? Can we afford these deaths? No. Is this something we must do something about? Yes,” said Ndebele.

South Africa had more than seven million licensed drivers and eight million registered vehicles, increasing six percent a year.

Ndelebele said factors which contributed to road accidents were excessive speed, drinking and driving, and the non-wearing of seatbelts.

Cars, light delivery vehicles and minibuses were the top three vehicle types likely to be involved in a crash.

“The police must show no mercy. We are certain of this and we owe it to the people we are burying today that their lives must spur us towards safer roads. We are certain of this,” said Ndebele. – Sapa