Road accidents cost the South African economy an estimated R581-billion between 1996 and 2006, according to a report by the Department of Transport.

The report includes the cost of injuries in its assessment of the economic toll of road accidents. More than 13 000 people are killed on South African roads each year, making the country one of the most dangerous in the world for drivers.

“The estimated total costs of road accidents over the eleven year period, R581-billion, give an idea of how much South Africa has lost out on potential production input or skills,” the report said.

South Africa, which wants to halve road deaths by 2014, has beefed up traffic enforcement and bolstered road safety education ahead of the 2010 soccer World Cup, which will be hosted in the country.

Speeding, a lack of policing and the high number of unroadworthy vehicles are among the factors that have made South African roads so unsafe.

About 25 per 100 000 people die in road accidents every year in South Africa, roughly six times the rate in some European countries.