Cape Town - With all the good tidings and festive season cheer that comes with this time of year, there is one dark side: SA’s roads become a death-trap for holidaymakers rushing to get to their families.
During SA's 2015 December holiday season alone, 1 368 people died in road accidents. This year, unfortunately, hasn’t been any different.
With many holidaymakers hitting the roads on Friday, 16 December, traffic on the N1 was so jam-pack that an hour-long traffic jam caused delays just outside Beaufort-West.
This despite the fact that the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) announced earlier that all road construction work has been halted across the 21 946 km of freeways to improve safety and promote trouble-free journeys for people who will travel to holiday destinations.
Major SANRAL routes including the N1 North and South, N3, N4, N7, N2 Cape Town to PE, however, will experience very heavy traffic over the December 2016 to January 2017 period.
Southbound roads, especially, are expected to be highly congested going into the peak holiday season, as holidaymakers make their way to SA's shorelines for Christmas and New Year.
These routes are particular hotspots for high peak travel, SANRAL says.
READ MAP: SA's national roads peak season routes and times
So far, roads have been very tumultuous. Ten people died after a taxi and bakkie collided on the R726 between Zastron and Sterkspruit in the Free State on Friday, while two women have died after a car with seven occupants overturned on the R34 in Welkom, in the Free State. A nine-year-old boy and his mother were critically injured.
In Pretoria, three people died when a taxi overturned on the Mabopane highway and outside Stellenbosch on the Baden Powell drive, two people died when a bakkie and BWM collided head-on over the weekend.
Cape Town paramedics said they responded to three separate reports of serious collisions in and around Cape Town over the weekend.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters on Saturday also said she is growing increasingly concerned about safety on South Africa’s roads.
Traffic officials urged motorists who are rushing to their holiday destinations not to drive recklessly as there have been several fatalities in crashes countrywide.
Arrive Alive also says it aims to promote safe journeys this festive season.
'Make sure your festive story ends well'
In a unique take on Road Safety promotion, the Road Accident Fund (RAF) launched a festive season campaign which seeks to ensure that life’s many stories are carried safely on SA’s roads so they can be shared with loved ones when people reach their destinations.
“Everyone has a story to tell when families and friends reunite," RAF Chief Executive Officer Eugene Watson says. And the RAF would like to make sure that these stories and their tellers get safely to their destinations over the festive season.
“For some, the destination may only be a kilometre or two away, while for others it will be hundreds of miles away. It’s not about distance but safety – yours, your family, friends and above all everyone who shares the road with you.
"The common thread is that everyone’s life matters, particularly at this time of year when we have stories to tell. Family news, exam results, job woes. Our roads carry many stories - let’s make sure they end well,” Watson says.
Check out Top 10 tips for a safe holiday roadtrip in SA to keep smart and savvy on the roads this festive season.
Festive Season fun
Apart from keeping safe, the holidays are for having fun.
If you need some pointers for the holiday hotspots in the country, or just need the lowdown on our home city if you’re having a staycation, our festive season guide will be your fun Bible this summer. Check out: The SA Festive Guide you shouldn't leave home without
What to read next on Traveller24:
- MAP: SA's national roads peak season routes and times
- Get Festive: New Year's Eve Events to check out in SA
- Beach safety 101: Plett shark attack a 'freak incident' - NSRI