14,000 people die annually in South Africa due to road accidents according to data from Road Traffic Management Corporation. According to the Automobile Association of South Africa, the trend is worsening despite various safety campaigns being carried out. In a letter addressed to the current minister of transport, Honourable Fikile Mbalula, written less than 3 weeks ago, the AA cited there have been 135,000 deaths on South African roads in the last decade alone. The letter called for action, especially as 2020 approaches. 2020 marks the end of one of UN’s initiative to reduce road deaths by half dubbed the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. With the impacts of technological advances already being felt in a variety of sectors, it is high time South Africa’s transport sector started employing the use of the latest road safety technologies. After all and cliche as it is, don’t they say better late than never?
The Latest Technology For Road Safety
77% of accidents in South Africa can be attributed to human error according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation. Human error comes about when drivers are poorly trained, incompetent, or distracted while driving. Thankfully, the minimization of these errors has been made possible with developments in autonomous car technology by automobile manufacturers such as Tesla and BMW. Nevertheless, while people are now opting to invest in cars fitted with the latest tech for safety, be they new or second hand, a lot more still needs to be done. Poor road conditions happen to be the second-largest cause of road accidents in South Africa. To that effect, the ministry of transport should consider the following technologies that are aimed at revamping roads and highways in order to promote safety.
Poor visibility accounts for close to 40% of pedestrian fatalities in South Africa as per reports by the AA. When you couple up motorized and non-motorized traffic, poor street lighting, and the non-use of interventions like bicycle lamps or reflectors, the risk of road users not being seen increases. To help with this, wind-powered lighting has been developed.Wind-powered lighting is one way technology is enhancing road safety. Using drift winds from moving cars, the wind-powered lights generate electricity automatically using pinwheels. This will help ensure there is adequate light on all road sections at night as cars travel meaning enhanced visibility and consequently safer roads.
Over the years the roads and highways are the only aspects of transportation that have gone through minimal evolution in South Africa. This should however no longer be the case as technologies leveraging on IoT are being developed to make roads smart. Glow in the dark paint is one type of tech that is expected to transform roads. This is still under the same issue of visibility. Poor visibility of both pedestrians and cars is a serious problem according to Arrive Alive South Africa. To that effect, instead of ordinary road lighting or wind-powered lighting, glow in the dark marks can be used as an alternative. The paint which has photo luminous powder, charges during the day and illuminates a length of 500 meters for a period of about 8 hours at night. This is expected to increase visibility hence minimizing accidents at night.
Freight transportation, 86% of which happens through trucks of different configurations according to Jan H. Havenga, is a major contributor to South Africa’s economy. As a matter of fact, it contributes a significant 46% according to Communicate. Nevertheless, while without the road freight transportation industry SA’s economy would dwindle, the heavy trucks used to move freight cause a slow but steady destruction of the road network. This is where sensor technology, should it be implemented, comes in handy. The addition of smart sensors on roads is set to help minimize accidents. This is because they will facilitate the remote monitoring of road surfaces and generate reports on surface conditions. This enables authorities to know promptly where and when road damages have occurred for immediate repairs.
This technology would have proven useful had it been implemented to ensure the R22 billion and R35 billion set apart in 2011 and last year respectively for the repair of potholes on South African roads was being put into proper use by easily identifying roads in bad conditions. Instead, South African roads are still falling apart what with more than 173,000 km still being in poor conditions till date according to Times.
As technological advances continue to rise, fewer and fewer road accidents are expected to occur on South African roads. The above-mentioned technologies provide a glimpse into the future of transportation. Hopefully, the current minister of transport will supersede his predecessors by adopting these technologies to create a safer and more efficient transport system that is geared towards attaining near-zero accident cases on the roads.