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“Will SA’s new road demerit system truly be a silver bullet?”

19 August 2019 Hippo.co.za
Vera Nagtegaal, Executive Head of Hippo.co.za

Vera Nagtegaal, Executive Head of Hippo.co.za

It is common knowledge that South Africa has incredibly high road fatalities - a great burden to government and the health profession.

Ubiquitous road awareness campaigns have failed to curb the prevalence of road deaths and it has recently emerged that these campaigns are not having the desired impact. Simple cost-benefit analysis postulates that these campaigns should either be modified for targeted audiences or alternatively, we should explore more effective road awareness programmes.

According to Vera Nagtegaal, Executive Head of Hippo.co.za, the new demerit system for SA road users, in theory, could significantly reduce road fatalities by imposing punitive action on motorists who do not adhere to the rules of the road.


Does the demerit system have merits?

Despite its good intentions, the demerit system can also pose a significant threat to the insurance industry, which traditionally has low penetration among motor and other vehicle class owners. A few years ago, the Automotive Association (AA) estimated that 65% of all vehicles on our roads are uninsured.

Nagtegaal explains that implementing the demerit system has numerous implications for the insurance industry.

“The suspension of a motorist’s license is likely to increase their insurance premiums or excess, influenced by greater perceived risk on the insurer’s part.”

This poses further applicable considerations: How will an insured motorist afford higher premiums or excess when their license gets suspended? Will the motorist with the suspended license forfeit their insurance cover and thereby be precluded from obtaining vehicle insurance from any other service provider? How will this affect the insurance industry at large? A reduction in the industry’s size will invariably lead to job losses – how will these individuals be absorbed into the labour market?


Campaigns need better targeting and better consultation with industry

The top priority is reducing South Africa’s stubbornly high road fatalities and accidents. According to Nagtegaal there have been several deficiencies in road awareness campaigns launched over the years. “These campaigns have simply targeted motorists instead of incorporating education programmes also aimed at teaching pedestrians about road safety and taking responsibility for their individual conduct when making use of road facilities.”

Pedestrians accounted for the largest proportion of total road fatalities in 2016 at 38%, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). Road casualties among passengers and drivers came in at 33% and 26% respectively.

Nagtegaal points out that what is evident is that a more holistic educational approach is needed to eradicate reckless driving by motorists, and encourage pedestrians to exercise greater caution when crossing our roads.

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