Not enough enforcement of vehicle safety checks

14 September 2023 | From Arrive Alive

Road safety in South Africa has been likened to a national pandemic with a recent study finding that local drivers are the most dangerous in the world, regardless of their gender.  The study conducted by Compare The Market (CTM) says a big contributor to these fatalities is the average age and condition of vehicles in the country, as many older cars are no longer in a roadworthy state.

The Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) concurs but adds that the laws placed on road users do not play as much of a role in creating dangerous driving conditions as  do driver training and vehicle compliance.  “The reality unfortunately is that even though we have some of the best laws and regulations in place, enforcement is lacking and that is where we are losing the battle,” says Jakkie Olivier, CEO of RMI.

Testing vehicles older than 10 years for roadworthiness on a regular basis will go a long way in reducing the unacceptably high level of accidents on South African roads. This has been one of the key drivers to fast-track Periodic testing which has literally been on the cards for the last nine years.   “One of our main concerns is the absence of a regular regime of testing for 80% of the vehicle population,” says Olivier.

“Private vehicles in South Africa are only tested for roadworthiness upon change of ownership. Vehicles used for reward are tested more regularly, i.e taxis and trucks annually and buses, every 6 months.”   Checking that these vehicles comply with the rules and regulations of the road traffic act at set intervals will significantly lower the chances of technical issues that cause crashes, as well as reduce the pressures of car accidents on the country’s already overstretched emergency services.

With no definitive plan to solve this problem it is concerning to hear of the increasing number of unroadworthy vehicles on our road. Vehicles in the e-hailing space have been the latest to draw attention with reports citing the ‘dilapidated state’ of many of the vehicles which are unroadworthy and in a poor condition. 

Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says quality control appears to be an issue even though spokespeople for the sector have repeatedly said that ‘the safety of drivers and riders’ is their utmost priority.

A study by Verster and Fourie (2017) estimates that as many as 1 million vehicles operating on South African roads may be un-roadworthy. The Road Traffic Management System (RTMC) suggests that the figure is around 550 000 but if unlicensed vehicles are included, the figure rises to over 1 million. Any of these figures indicate the problem is serious, as vehicles that are unroadworthy are a hazard and a death-trap.  
“As the largest players in the retail aftermarket sector we would be happy to open discussion with these services and see if there was a way we could collaborate more closely and assist in the interest of a safer car parc.

“We know that as the economic outlook worsens, South Africans remain under immense pressure to save money motorists may be tempted to select the cheapest service or parts option without first checking the business carefully. And without proper oversight on testing and quality of parts being used the only real loser is the consumer,” concludes Ranft. 

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