CAPE TOWN, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- South Africa continues to experience around 14,000 road deaths every year, making it among the countries that have the highest traffic death rate in the world, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.
In addition to the immense human cost of fatal accidents, there is a significant economic cost estimated at 147 billion rand (about 9.8 billion U.S. dollars) each year, the president said as he launched October Transport Month at a ceremony in Heidelberg, Gauteng Province.
"We must arrest this dire situation for the sake of preserving the health of our people and the productivity of our country," Ramaphosa said.
The ceremony was to acknowledge the tragic human and economic cost inflicted by collisions and other accidents on South African roads, Ramaphosa said.
Attending the ceremon were a number of survivors of traffic accidents and people who have experienced loss in their family or among colleagues.
"We offer all of you our heartfelt sympathy and support, and the commitment that (the) government and all sectors of society will work together to achieve a change in road user behavior," the president said.
The roads won't become safer unless South Africans change their attitudes as road users, he said, adding that safer roads do not begin with more police and greater enforcement.
"Safer roads begin with what we think, feel and do as we begin our journeys as pedestrians, drivers, passengers or cyclists," Ramaphosa said.
He called for the provision of safe and comfortable transport for workers, instead of bundling large numbers of people onto the backs of exposed vehicles, in clear disregard of the value of life or in violation of law.
Motorists should check their vehicles and keep them off the road if they are not roadworthy, said Ramaphosa.
"It is through our individual sense of responsibility that all of us will arrive alive, uninjured and without any infringements, fines or judgments against our names, all of the time," he said.
Most accidents in the country are caused by driving with execessive speed, driving with fatigue, driving under the influence of alchohol, driving with vehicles that are not roadworthy, and negligence of traffic rules, according to police.
South Africa has committed itself to the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which seeks to reduce road fatalities and injuries.
As part of this commitment, the government has introduced several measures that will usher in a fundamental change in the manner in which road traffic safety issues are addressed, Ramaphosa said.
The country has introduced the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act, which is part of the interventions to forge a more effective and efficient link between enforcement and a transparent and fair adjudication process.
The Act promotes responsible behavior on roads through the creation of a demerit system, which introduces meaningful consequences for reckless, negligent and inconsiderate conduct.
With this, South Africa is joining a growing number of countries worldwide where the consequences of infringements and offences are felt in the pockets, livelihoods and lives of those who break the law, Ramaphosa said.
"During this October Transport Month, we reinvite South Africans to use public transport, to share vehicles, to cycle and to walk where feasible, not only to reduce congestion and carbon emissions, but as part of engaging with each other as citizens who share a wonderful country," he said.