Safer roads, Part I: The true cost of road carnage


Road accidents in South Africa are common and result in severe consequences for those involved. Some people even face a permanent disability like amputation or paraplegia. Luckily there are some people passionate about making South African roads safer.

Occupational therapist Lee Randall has founded Road Heroes, a small group for like-minded people to fight along side her in improving road safety. She shares the real dire situation of South African roads.

“South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, from a road safety perspective,” Randall says. “We have a lot more road deaths per 100 000 people than the world average, which sits at about 17 people. We lose about 26 people out of every 100 000.”

Wings for life world run, Wings for Life Foundation, Centurion

Lee Randall at the 2019 Wings for Life World Run.

Statistics like these place South Africa at the bottom of the Brics countries when it comes to road safety and also among the worst when compared with some of its African neighbours, despite having better developed road infrastructure and traffic legislation.

“We can’t even begin to compete with the very safest nations of the world, like the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries, where fewer than five out of every 100 000 people die on the roads,” Randall adds.

The high number of accidents also directly impacts on gross domestic product (GDP). An estimated five to ten percent of the South African GDP is lost when taking into account the total cost of road accidents, including productivity lost by the injured and their families – not to mention the many people who are unable to re-enter the job market or suffer permanent disabilities.

“For every two people who die on the roads, another one survives with a permanent disability and many more survive with serious injuries,” Randall says. While the situation is dire, the causes vary. A combination of political, economic and sociocultural factors is to blame.

Randall argues that everyone should take responsibility for road conditions, but that government plays the biggest part. “Government in particular, as the system designer and the law enforcer, has a very high level of responsibility to address the situation. Not to do so deprives people of our constitutional rights to life, safety and personal wellbeing,” she says.

Want to learn how you can help make roads safer? Look out for our next newsletter. You can join the Road Heroes movement by emailing You can also sign her petition to help make South African road safer. Simply click here.

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