Politics, violence and road safety: Why are South African roads such dangerous places?

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Wendy Watson

This paper attempts to examine the reasons behind the behaviour on the roadsof South Africa today which has led us to a death rate of some 15 x that ofdeveloped countries such as Australia, the United States and Europe. I amfully aware that we have a lower rate of crashes than many developingcountries in the world, which account for 70% of global deaths, although theyonly carry 30% of the traffic. South Africa is a society in transition, witha history markedly different from most developing countries, with its ownspecial circumstances and conditions. The paper is a reflection on thepolitical and social history of my country, and an entirely personal view ofthe factors, which I perceive to be contributory to the carnage on our roads,and the attitudes, and behaviour that contributes to that carnage. I am awarethat I am speaking to engineers, scientists and other people who base theirwork on logical and scientific principles, and my presentation willconcentrate on behaviour, emotion, personal perception and some socialanalysis. Please bear with me on our journey.

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