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Automobile Association says infrastructure maintenance is critical to save lives

Crumbling local and provincial infrastructure is contributing to South Africa’s poor road safety levels and must be addressed urgently if meaningful strides to improve the country’s horrendous road safety record are to be made.   The Automobile Association (AA) believes dangerous potholed streets, inoperative streetlights, blocked stormwater drains, pollution-filled rivers and streams which overflow, and unkept sidewalks and traffic islands are among the issues that require attention and should be prioritized by local and provincial authorities.   All too often human behaviour is blamed for road crashes when, in fact, prevailing road conditions are the culprit. Research shows that there is an upward trajectory showing just how poor road environments contribute to fatal car crashes.   When we hear of the high number of pedestrians who are killed annually in South Africa we must ask if sufficient provision is being made for this road user group on our roads. Are there adequate sidewalks for them to walk on, or are they forced onto the road surface with other vehicles? Are streetlights always working to make them visible when they walk early in the morning or at night? Are there sufficient crossings and bridges for pedestrians to cross busy roads and highways, or are they forced to take chances that may, ultimately, lead to severe injuries or even death?   Added to the mix is fast deteriorating infrastructure where, it appears, there is minimal effort to upkeep.   When it rains in certain areas, roads become gridlocked as even small streams become impassable. Stormwater drains are clogged resulting in torrents of water flowing down busy roads, making it impossible for vehicles to use them. New potholes are created, and existing potholes get even bigger and deeper. Any actions by means of trying to swerve by drivers to avoid these potholes which results in crashes is then ascribed to human error, which it is not; it’s road error caused by poor maintenanc.   The Association says poorly maintained road markings and road signage is another problem.   Road markings and signage are there for a reason and should be well maintained but this is also neglected, sadly in many high-traffic areas where it is especially needed. Road users are vulnerable in these situations because the markings and signs which control, and direct traffic are ineffective.   We advise road users across South Africa should actively report incidents of maintenance failure to their local authorities,   We know all too well that such an approach often yields little results, but we believe it’s still a necessary step in dealing with problems and getting things working right. It’s a critical first step along with engaging with local councillors and community leaders.   If targets to reduce road fatalities in South Africa are to be met – such halving the number of road deaths in the country by 2030 – urgent attention must be paid to road and municipal infrastructure, or these targets will remain unattainable.