by Al-Ameen Kafaar
It is expensive to die in South Africa.
Funeral costs are the fourth highest in the world, averaging R26 875, according to a 2020 international survey conducted in 35 countries.
It is not just burial costs that are exorbitant. According to research by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the estimated unit cost per death on the roads in 2015, or the cost of death per person dying on our roads, was R3 916 187.
The estimated unit cost in 2015 per fatal road traffic crash (RTC), or a crash in which at least one person died, was R5 435 261.
The cost of fatalities in 2015 amounted to R14.95 billion. This was during January 1 to December 31, 2015.
The body count for this period was 12 994 and those bodies were black-bagged from 10 613 crashes. The cost of fatalities in 2015 were close to 3.4% of the country’s gross domestic product.
This means that for all goods and services produced in 2015, R3.40 out of every R100 earned was lost to RTCs.
The RTMC research distinguishes between human casualty and incident costs. Human casualty costs include loss of productivity, cost related to pain and suffering, medical treatment, funerals and workplace recuperation. Incident costs include emergency medical services, legal, vehicle related, RTC management, infrastructure damage, delays, congestions and emissions.
Not included is the burden on the taxpayer who must support orphans or other dependants who now rely on government grants.
Road deaths are not coming down.
In 2016, the black bag count was 14 071 (R167.63bn) and 14 050 fatalities in 2017 (R 172.72bn). There was a slight decrease in 2018 when 12 921 dead people were removed from our roads.
The RTCM cost was less, R166.72bn.
In 2017, the Western Cape government completed the Bonnievale Primary School, built of brick and mortar. It comprised 32 standard classrooms (40 learners a classroom), four Grade R classrooms (30 learners a classroom) and three multi-purpose classrooms to be used for library and computer services, arts and culture, and handwork. It also has a hall with toilet facilities, an administrative building and facilities for a supervisor. The cost was about R62m.
About 241 schools like that in Bonnievale could have been built in 2015 with the R14.95bn.
The construction of the school provided employment for more than 100 residents. Numerous residents were also skilled through training while construction took place. A total of R5m was spent on targeted sub-contractor business, R3m on business in the area that supplied material and more than R3m on local labour.
Mitchells Plain District Hospital was completed in 2013 at a construction cost of R533 686 490. The hospital has 60 adult beds, 60 adult surgical beds, 60 obstetrics beds, including kangaroo mother care, 30 paediatric beds, 20 overnight beds, an accident and emergency unit and general outpatients.
The provincial government spent R289 360 985 for work supplied by HDI-owned providers, R17 825 055 for local women-owned businesses, and R25 146 943 on local labour. The construction gave opportunities to 42 local contractors from Mitchells Plain and 28 from Philippi. It created about 5 622 work opportunities, 3 169 of which were for local youth, as well as providing on-site and project management training.
In short, about 241 schools like the one built in Bonnievale and about 28 hospitals like the Mitchells Plain District Hospital could have been built with the cost of crashes and fatalities in 2015. This is besides the number of jobs that could be created or small business that could receive boosts. We simply cannot afford the carnage on our roads.
But lives lost unnecessarily are probably the most tragic. Montague in the Langeberg district has, according to the 2011 Census, a population of 15 179. The Integrated Development Plan for the area states the largest portion of the population is involved in agriculture. Crops grown in the area range from deciduous fruit to nuts, grapes and olives.
The processing of these form part of the backbone of the area’s economy.
Imagine the shock that would be experienced if more than 82% of the population was wiped out. A huge challenge would exist in terms of food security, if such a travesty would have happened. Labour in agriculture is continuously growing into technical skills. Imagine the loss to the country as far as skills are concerned.
Closer to Cape Town is Constantia, its population according to the 2011 census is 12 564. This number is just 430 less than the amount of people who died on the roads in 2015. Imagine the reaction if the whole population of Constantia was wiped out. Yet people lost their lives, whether they live in deep rural areas or in the most affluent areas in our country.
All lives are precious, especially a life ended unnecessarily. The UN’s Global Road Safety Partnership’s vision is to have “A world free of road crash death and injury”.
The partnership has over the past few years tried to move away from using the word “accident”. Instead, it uses the word “crash”.
“Accident” implies a situation completely beyond our control. Yet many crashes came because of speed, drunk driving, drunk pedestrians, reckless behaviour, distracted driving and walking, all behavioural challenges, if stopped would significantly reduce the number of deaths on our roads.
October Month is Transport Month in South Africa. Please, let us reduce the carnage on our roads.
* Kafaar is a former journalist who worked at various Independent Media newspapers (DFA, The Star, Saturday Star and IOL). He is a former broadcaster, former government communicator and PR practitioner. He is currently employed by the Department Transport and Public Works, where he teaches road safety to children. He is a regular columnist. He writes in his private capacity.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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