South African Insurance Association

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The link between crime and road safety

Most people would be very concerned about the fact that around 50 people are murdered in South Africa daily, however, not as many seem to be as worried about the fact that around 36 people lose their lives in road accidents daily. In fact, an important link between crime and road safety exists in more ways than one.

“In general, a link between high crime rates and high accident rates in South Africa exists because of a distinct lack of a law abiding culture and society, amongst many other reasons,” says Viviene Pearson, Manager: Image and Reputation of SAIA.

Statistics show that ninety (90) percent of all road accidents are preceded by a road traffic offence. It is against the law to drive under the influence of alcohol for example, just as it is to drive over the speed limit, or to skip a traffic light, or to drive a motor vehicle that is not roadworthy, or to drive without a license, adds Pearson.

Not only can any of these offences end up in a tragic motor vehicle accident, with resultant loss of lives, assets as well as money, they can also lead to the driver of the vehicle ending up with a criminal record. Should someone be injured or killed in such an accident, serious charges can be laid at the door of the driver of the vehicle including culpable homicide. Even if an accident does not happen, and a driver of a vehicle is found to be disregarding the law, for example driving under the influence of alcohol, the driver can end up with a criminal record for the offence itself.

“Another link exists between high motor vehicle accident rates and high motor vehicle crime rates,” Pearson adds.

Motor vehicles that are stolen are usually stolen for monetary gain. Some vehicles are stolen for the parts market and end up in ‘chop shops’. The estimated percentage of stolen vehicles ending up in ‘chop shops’, is in the region of 10%. In addition, it is estimated that 30% of stolen vehicles are ‘exported’ to other countries. This means that around 60% of all stolen vehicles land up re-registered on our own roads, that is they end up in the ‘domestic market’.

“Many methods exist to make re-registration of vehicles possible. One of these include buying accident damaged vehicles and/or wrecks, or even just the records of these vehicles, in order to use these records for stolen vehicles. The details of the stolen vehicle are then changed to match the record of the accident damaged vehicle. In this way a stolen vehicle obtains a legitimate life if its own,” says Pearson.

It is for these reasons, as well as the unacceptable losses of many human lives and the cost of the high accident rates on our economy as well as on our industry that the South African Insurance Association is increasingly giving attention to road safety matters in addition to our historical attention to vehicle and other crime in South Africa.