Road Carnage Continues To Take a Grim Toll, but Real, Lasting Solutions Are Available, Says NICRO

NICRO has expressed grave concern following the release yesterday of road fatality statistics by Transport Minister Blade Nzimande. Death on South African roads rose by 14% overall to 591 during the Easter 2018 holiday period, despite concerted efforts to reduce fatalities by 10%. This year the recorded number of drivers killed escalated from 20.5%  in 2017 to 25.6%. It is equally disconcerting that the number of pedestrian fatalities, especially amongst young children and middle-aged individuals, has increased from 33.8% in 2017 to 37.3 % this year.

An outright leader in its field, NICRO is at the forefront of South Africa’s unrelenting search for effective, lasting solutions to combating crime and creating a safe, peaceful society. NICRO CEO Soraya Solomon highlights the disturbing statistic that human error is a contributing factor in 89.5 % of motor vehicle accidents in 2018, compared to 74.3% in the previous year.

“South Africans, in general, have little respect for the law and this is especially evident among South African drivers. People think nothing of consuming several glasses of alcohol and getting behind the wheel or displaying wanton disregard for the rules of the road and other road users by driving recklessly and at great speed”, Solomon adds.

In its work with the courts, NICRO identified the need for an intervention to address escalating crimes related to road traffic offences. As a result, the organisation launched its Road Offence Panel Programme (ROPP) in 2010 and works together with strategic partners to address the challenge of growing numbers of offenders arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), speeding, reckless and negligent driving, and the resultant impact.

Solomon points out that few people understand the practical implications of being convicted of a crime, more especially when that crime relates to a road traffic offence. “South African drivers need to understand that when they are arrested for a road traffic offence, regardless of what the offence may be, it constitutes a crime. If you are convicted of the offence or pay an admission of guilt fine, you will incur a criminal record which will reflect on the South African Police Services (SAPS) Criminal Records Centre (CRC) database. This, in turn, will adversely affect your employment prospects and could also result in the refusal of a travel visa”, Solomon warns.

The NICRO Road Offences Panel Programme focuses on changing the individual’s attitude towards alcohol use, driving under the influence and road safety generally and, in so doing, on changing offending behaviour.

At the onset of the ROPP programme, participants almost always have limited knowledge of road safety and how alcohol affects the individual and his / her abilities. Few participants realise that your driving is impaired, even after one unit of alcohol, and that you may be intoxicated, despite being under the legal limit.

For the majority of programme participants, driving is not a conscious act where they actively apply themselves, but rather an automatic behaviour during which they are less aware of their environment and their own actions. Driving becomes instinctual and subconscious rather than a deliberate and conscious act. The programme is about bringing conscious and trained behaviour to the fore and ensuring that people realise that all driving behaviours involve making decisions. For this reason, drivers need to be alert and aware of their surroundings, themselves and the decisions they take.

While the eight session programme features information sharing and knowledge acquisition, the intervention also incorporates a fundamental attitudinal and behavioural change component. Solomon explains, “What this means is that offenders who participate in the programme are afforded a remarkable opportunity to change cognitive distortions (or faulty thinking) and unacceptable behaviour. They also have the chance to repair the damage they have caused and acquire fundamental life skills, attitudes and values to avoid further problems with alcohol and reckless driving”.

The Road Offences Panel Programme can be utilised as a diversion option, in which case the offender is diverted away from the formal criminal justice system, thus avoiding both a court appearance and a criminal record. The intervention can also be used as a sentencing option. This initiative allows suitable offenders who have been found guilty, and sentenced, to participate in this special programme and carry out their sentences in the community. Instead of going to prison, they will benefit from participation in an intervention which is highly conducive to optimal rehabilitation.

In the next twelve months, NICRO will facilitate the implementation of the Road Offences Panel Programme in six provinces (Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Western Cape) for some 2 000 road traffic offenders in collaboration with AwaRE.org, a vital partner that is equally focussed on reducing the carnage on our roads and preventing the negative consequences of alcohol abuse.

The scourge of alcohol misuse and abuse in South Africa requires a collective and intensive approach. The Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (AwaRE.org) is the organisation that drives responsible alcohol marketing and consumption on behalf of industry stakeholders. The industry recognises the need for fundamental intervention programmes and has embraced this responsibility by working with partners like NICRO to educate and ultimately change drinking behavior within communities.

NICRO encourages all corporate concerns, organisations and individuals with an interest in supporting the organisation in its efforts to combat crime, especially road traffic offences, and the creation of safer roads and South African communities to contact Arina Smit on (021) 462-0017 or via email at [email protected] / [email protected] for further details about the Road Offences Panel Programme or any other NICRO services.