Accident Research


-::- Accident Research Centre / UNIARC -::-

The University Of Natal Interdisciplinary Accident Research Centre (UNIARC) has been established to undertake research into various aspects of road safety, from perspectives of both human behaviour, and road and vehicle conditions. It is our mission to contribute to a reduction in the frequency and severity of injury by the application of a scientific interdisciplinary approach. It is the vision of UNIARC to become a catalyst of active research for safety.


  • To establish a centre of expertise that identifies and benefits from international and local research into the causes of, and countermeasures against, road crashes and road trauma.
  • To develop and implement methodologies and techniques for monitoring and evaluating road safety strategy.
  • To undertake research and investigation which is relevant to the improvement of road safety in South Africa, and which represents value for money.
  • To identify emerging road safety problems and solutions, and to identify an order of priority based on cost benefit analysis.
  • To establish a collaborative research environment which attracts external funding and support through the high standard and relevance of the research and investigations.


  • Review of a crash data system and recommendations for reform. Although reporting procedures have improved, UNIARC is in a position to collaborate with other data?collecting agencies and to ensure accuracy of reporting.
  • Collect baseline information, against which future success can be measured.
  • Investigate public perceptions of various road safety campaigns.
  • Evaluate how perceptions and behaviour as regards alcohol have changed over a period of time as a result of the use of booze busses, emotive advertising, educational programmes and other campaigns. All are expected to have a direct effect on road usage, particularly drinking and driving.
  • Assess major enforcement and communication campaigns aimed at speeding (such as the Traffic Camera Office (TCO) pilot project) for their effect on public perceptions, attitudes and behaviour.
  • Examine law enforcement, resource deployment and utilisation of traffic officials. An evaluation of whether enforcement is concentrated primarily in areas of high crash incidence is to be undertaken.
  • Inspect and assess issues involving heavy vehicles and public transport vehicles due to the proportion of fatalities associated with these.
  • Probe road safety issues relating to the minibus taxi industry. This sector services the majority of the public, including women and children, so research in this area could lead to a substantial saving of lives.


UNIARC hopes to ensure through research:

  • a clear focus on road safety issues.
  • traffic safety programmes which achieve the best possible results.
  • dynamic traffic safety strategy focussed on saving lives, and on developing the people, economy and infrastructure of South Africa.

-::- Projects Completed by UNIARC -::-

1. Evaluation of the Impact of the Asiphephe 1999-2000 Christmas Mass Media Campaign on Traffic Safety in KwaZulu Natal

Dr Goudine Gaum
UNIARC 2000/1
Focus group interviews were held in Durban, Gamalakhe, Pietermariztburg and Pinetown, during which participants were exposed to several road safety television and radio adverts.

2. Exposure and Experience Confounded by Structural Constraints. Assessing the impact of accidents, predation and AIDS on long distance drivers.

Tessa Marcus
UNIARC 2000/2
About 600 truck drivers were interviewed, some in 1995, and the others in 1999. The study found that several factors influence risks that endanger long distance truck drivers. These include unsafe working hours, sleep deprivation, crime and the impacts of AIDS, and STI’s on driver health.

3. Exploring the Phenomena Surrounding Road Traffic Collisions and Loss Reduction Strategies Along a Stretch of the N3 Freeway in KwaZulu Natal.

Lindy Dickson
UNIARC 2000/3
The stretch of the N3 between Durban and Shongweni is one of the worst roads in KZN for fatal and serious road crashes. This study focussed in particular on the 5 km between Marianhill Toll Plaza and Key Ridge. The study found that more judicious enforcement of rules of the road on the stretch would diminish fatalities.

4. Results of a Baseline Survey on Drinking and Driving Habits, Conducted in Bars, Clubs and Shebeens in the Durban Metro Region, during September, October and November 2000

Sarah Watson
UNIARC 2000/4
600 people were interviewed in drinking locations in Durban Metro. The study found that 93% of drivers regularly drive after drinking three or more drinks. More than 50% of participants in the survey drink more than eleven drinks in one session of drinking. Recommendations include more visible enforcement and the establishment of a nighttime public transport system.

5. A Pilot Study of Injuries Sustained by Paediatric Clients Involved in Pedestrian Road Traffic Collisions

Petra Brysiewicz
UNIARC 2001/1
This study looked at hospital records of children admitted after road crashes. During 1996, 605 children were killed in road crashes. 46% of these were under 6 years old.

6. Victim’s Evaluation of Post-Road Accident Assistance

Sinikiwe Manqele
UNIARC 2002/1
This study was conducted in Umlazi. 80 people who had been involved in crashes were interviewed. It was found that emergency medical response times were poor. Victims also felt that they needed post trauma counseling which was not made available to them.

7. Improving the Image of Traffic Officers: investigating problems regarding public relations between road users and traffic officials.

Rike Sitas
UNIARC 2002/2
402 drivers, 172 pedestrians and 80 traffic officials were interviewed. The relationship between traffic officials and road users was found to be problematic. Issues affecting public perception included bribery and corruption, the fine allocation system and conflict management.

8. A Baseline Study into Seatbelt Wearing Habits Before and After Information Campaign and Law Enforcement.

Khwezi Gule
UNIARC 2002/3
3000 motorists were observed over 2 months, in an urban shopping complex. Baseline wearing rates were measured. An information campaign, followed by a period of law enforcement, was mounted, after which time seatbelt compliance rose from 23% to 35%.

9. How Traffic Conscious are Primary School Pupils? Building the foundations of a safe and secure traffic environment in South Africa

Nick Miles
UNIARC 2002/4
1066 pupils were interviewed at 10 schools in eThekweni municipality. 35% of these children had already been involved in a crash. Attention must be paid to making the area around schools a safe road environment, and teaching children to use the road responsibly.

10. Road Safety Situational Analysis on the Edendale Road

Riyad Ismail and Celani Myeza
UNIARC 2002/5
Edendale road is one of the most dangerous roads in Pietermarizburg. Negligent road users, poor road maintenance, poor visibility, stray animals, unroadworthy vehicles, reckless driving and lack of enforcement were identified as contributing factors to the high crash rate.

11. Motorists’ Recognition of Daytime Running Lights for the Good of Road Safety

UNIARC Management
UNIARC 2002/6
1050 motorists were surveyed. 69% expressed a willingness to drive with their lights on during the day if it was made mandatory. Use of daytime running lights is expected to reduce multiple vehicle crashes, and pedestrian crashes, by making the car more conspicuous.

12. The Message and the Medium: Assessing the ‘take-out’ and ‘buy-in’ of road safety messages.

Moira Haarhoff
UNIARC 2002/7a

Most media campaigns regarding road safety come from the National Department of Transport. While the majority of respondents remembered several messages, it became clear that many of these messages were not clearly understood, especially by those who are not fully literate.

UNIARC 2002/7b

Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape

UNIARC 2002/7c

Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga

UNIARC 2002/7d

Gauteng, Limpopo, North-West

13. Retro-Reflective Material at the Rear of Heavy Vehicles. Determining whether usage is in line with the updated traffic regulations.

Moira Haarhoff
UNIARC 2002/8
1000 heavy vehicles were observed at the Marianhill, Kranskop, Huguenot Tunnel and Middleburg toll plazas. Only 42.1% of the vehicles were found to comply with the regulations regarding use of retro-reflective tape.