Can you hear the holiday bells ringing? It's almost time to put the grill on the braai almost every other day and ease into 2018 with good vibes and lots of laughter along with friends and family.
However, with the party atmosphere comes the unfortunate irresponsible behaviour of some turning those festive bells into alarm bells.
South Africa's Department of Transport is calling on all road users to not drink and drive, text and drive, reduce your speed, buckle up and beware of pedestrians.
Festive season road death rise
Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi says the surge in festive season fatalities in the last three years from 1 587 in 2014/15 to 2 006 in 2016/17 shows a need for the zero tolerance approach to law enforcement on the road.
“The statistics again glaringly show that we have a monumental task to improve the behaviour of road users and safety on the roads,” Maswanganyi said on Tuesday at the launch of the Department of Transport’s festive season campaign in Bela-Bela township, Limpopo.
According to MEC Makhurupetje, Bela-Bela was strategically chosen for the launch as it serves as the gateway to Limpopo tourism and offers access to the borders of neighbouring African countries. This results in extreme traffic volumes in the province.
Five provinces, namely Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, accounted for 73% of all fatalities last year. This festive season, government says it will strive to combat this by removing unfit drivers and vehicles from the road.
Maswanganyi also issued a stern warning urging respect for traffic officers and reminding motorists and the public that an attack against law enforcement officers is an attack against the State and it shall not be tolerated.
SEE: 2018 in Public Holidays: Do your leave planning like a pro
Road crash trends
The department says a trends analysis of festive season road crashes shows that over the past three years, road accidents spike over the weekends. A deeper analysis shows that several crashes take place between 15H00 and mid-night, and again in the mornings between 04H00 and 07H00.
The department anticipates that the weekend leading to December 16 and the extended Christmas long weekend, as well as the New Year’s Day long week will be particularly challenging and taxing on traffic law enforcement officers.
Travellers are advised to plan their journeys carefully and avoid last minute rush and late night driving. Routes that pose the highest risks and built up areas - i.e. suburbs, townships and settlements - have been identified for intensified policing to reduce pedestrian and driver fatalities.The fitness of public transport and overloading will also receive close attention to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths.
The rainy weather is posing a major risk factor to travellers in some parts of the country in this period - as warnings of flash flooding have been issued. Also of concern is that many motorists are not adjusting speed in consideration of wet road conditions.
Festive season campaign to see highly visible policing
The common practice of hiding officers or traffic vehicles is a thing of the past says Maswanganyi, as high visibility of uniformed traffic officials, clearly marked vehicles and mobile testing stations will be the order the day.
The department said its plan to deviate from the outdated hide and seek method will see it nab more people who violate the rules of the road. Motorists can expect to see uniformed officers patrol freeways, streets and public places in clearly marked vehicles which is deemed as the best means available for the prevention of road traffic violations.
Road safety is everybody's responsibility
Government has partnered with Community Safety Councils in every province to bolster its efforts to reduce road crashes.
There will also be an a 24-hour shift for traffic officers this year over the festive season peak period. Officials are expected to be tough with those who drink and drive on the roads. Motorists can expect to be stopped at mobile testing stations where officials will test the roadworthiness of their cars. Drivers will also be tested for alcohol levels at all road safety law enforcement activations.
Public transport warned to comply with law
Public transport was also given a warning to ensure they comply with all road regulations for their sector. The department said public transport would receive special attention because minibus vehicles and buses account for about 10% of motor vehicles that get involved in fatal crashes on South Africa roads.
“The death toll from these vehicles is often high because of the number of people that they carry,” Maswanganyi.
The department said while road fatalities and injuries occur all year round and it peaks during the festive season, it remains a major concern for government.
“Young people between the ages of 20 and 34 constitute the majority of people who die on South African roads. Let there be no tolerance for drunken driving, speeding, reckless and negligent driving and all forms of lawlessness on the roads. Our responsibility is to save the lives of the people. Let’s do all we can to save lives,” says Maswanganyi.
ALSO SEE: City of Cape Town launches safety plan ahead of festive season
Do tourism responsibly
As travellers in our own country, the onus always rests with us and essentially this is the context of SA's Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa's latest campaign - Do tourism responsibly.
Xasa will visit the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain in Cape Town on Saturday, 9 December as part of the holiday season kick-off to encourage visitors and locals alike to "explore and preserve the cultural and environmental aesthetics of SA as a tourism destination as well as to adhere to the rules of the road to ensure safe travel, especially safety for children and women during the holiday period".
Water Crisis in the Mother City
As the Mother City gets ready for the festive season, the City of Cape Town has released its public safety operational plan for the holidays. The plan is designed to ensure public safety over the December and January holiday period and it includes roadblocks, roaming vehicle checkpoints and increased law enforcement at public spaces.
As part of the initiative, road and beach safety are two of the main focus areas.
“This time of the year is known as the silly season and sadly the silliness of some can have devastating consequences for themselves and others," says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.
With the first weekend of the festive season and the first major events out of the way, alcohol is already emerging as an unsavoury central character in the play. Read more below:
The City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement Department confiscated 2 224 litres of alcohol this past weekend alone.
Alcohol confiscations form a crucial part of the City’s enforcement efforts over the festive season in a bid to ensure public safety. The confiscations are done in accordance with City by-laws that prohibit the introduction and consumption of alcohol on beaches and in other public places.
Smith says the City has invested much thought into its festive season plan to ensure that it is ready for any eventuality.
"This year, we have also had to consider contingency plans to accommodate the drought crisis and its impact on our normal operations," he says, adding that there will be one-third of all swimming pools open and the number of beach lifeguards in anticipation has been increased.
SEE: Water-wise summer: Certain Cape pools to remain open despite water restrictions
Smith explains that drafting and implementing a plan of this magnitude is not easy and that it couldn't be done without the cooperation and support of the public.
"Ultimately, every person is responsible for their own safety and so we urge the public to be mindful of their behaviour, act responsibly, and do their bit to make the festive season memorable," he says.
Getting ready for your end of year road trip:
First things first - Vehicle safety 101
Whether you’re driving a short distance or across the country, road safety starts with you - so be sure to double check your vehicle before taking the family on a road trip.
Here are some tips to ensure that your car and your family are prepared for your next adventure:
Have your car serviced and given a proper safety check up
Map out your trip – make sure you allow plenty of time to get to your destination, including rest stops
Take regular breaks (at least one every two hours) and pull over for a power nap as soon you feel tired or fatigued.
Share the driving if possible
Never drink alcohol, not even small amounts, before or during a long trip
Have a few good nights' sleep before heading off
Stay within the speed limit and always choose an appropriate speed for the driving conditions – whether city, country or night time driving
Make sure all passengers wear appropriate seatbelts or child restraints - including pets
Make sure all luggage is properly secured and won't become projectiles in the case of sudden braking.
Avoid distractions – don't use mobile phones and keep young passengers occupied with games for children when driving.
If driving refrain from using your cell phone – even if it is hands-free – as it is a distraction
Keep an adequate following distance – 3 to 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front
Be careful if pulling over into the emergency lane ( yellow lane) as it would be unsafe to do so before cresting a rise
Give trucks plenty of room – remember they take longer to stop than a car
Keep your headlights on for entire trip – see and be seen.
Be patient – enjoy the drive
SEE: Cape Water Crisis: Mother City gets tourism water saving campaigns underway
Check out this handy step-by-step guide on how to check your vehicle before going on a road trip:
Hijacking Hotspots - places to avoid
The National Hijack Prevention Academy (NHPA) has released a list of hijacking-hotspots in some major SA cities. The organisation's latest list shows hotspots in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.
Carjacking has increased by 14.3% in all provinces, according to the 2015/16 annual crime survey released by the South African Police (SAPS), with the number being the highest in Gauteng.
The following hijacking hotspots have been identified by the NHPA:
Traveller24 Tip: Beware when travelling under highway bridges in cities, and as far as possible, do not travel in problem areas at night.
SEE: Click here to calculate your toll fees across SA's popular road trip routes
Who to call In Case of Emergency
Report incidents to either the South African Police Services (10111) or the National Traffic Call Centre (NTCC) on 012 665 6075.
Arrive Alive can be contacted on 0861 400 800 to report cases of bad driving, as well as poor road conditions.
The Automobile Association Rescue can be reached on 080 001 0101.
For emergencies, you can call 112 from any cell phone in South Africa. You will then reach a call centre and they will route you to an emergency service closest to you.
Traveller24 Tip: Download the new emergency resonder app MySOS. It's a one-stop solution for access to the closest and most appropriate emergency services in South Africa. Be sure to link up your family and friends to strengthen the network of assistance. Read more about MySOS and how it works.
Be vigilant, ensure peace of mind
With the summer holiday season upon us, various tourism authorities have warned visitors and holidaymakers to be vigilant and to stay informed and aware of their safety while having a good time.
Criminals are more opportunistic during the high-season and will often target those tourists who are blinded by the beauty of SA, falling victim to cunning schemes.
For peace of mind, visitors should remember the Seven Ps of holiday safety:
- 1. Prepare- Prevention is always better than cure. Do your research of where you are heading. Ask tourism officials about suburbs where you want to book accommodation, and have a rough itinerary planned - even it you're planning on winging it this holiday.
- 2. People- It is safer and more fun to travel in groups. If you are going out at night, or exploring a deserted area or destination, it is essential that you travel in a group.
- 3. Path - If you are hiking in SA this festive season, always stick to the prescribed route. It is best advised to hike with an experienced, accredited guide. Also always let friends and/or family members know when you are going hiking, and give them an estimate time of when you would be back.
- 4. Phone - Another helpful initiative is the free mySOS app which uses your location to find the emergency services closest to you, as well as sending a notification to your selected contacts. The app can be used without active data, too.
- 5. Protect - Be vigilant and protect your finances at all times. Rather go into a bank branch than ask a stranger's help if you are struggling to operate SA's ATMs. Also protect your credit card information and do not carry around large sums of cash. When you park your vehicle, ensure that there are no valuables left behind.
- 6. Planet Earth - South Africa is known for its beautiful wildlife, but visitors should remember these animals are wild and can behave unpredictably. Do not try to feed animals in any SANParks, animal centres or sanctuaries (unless authorised to do so).
- 7. Photocopies -Bring certified copies or affidavits of your most important documents along and use them rather than the original documents, where possible.
Save these emergency numbers on your cell phone:
- South African Police Service and National Emergency Response
Phone from cell phone: 112 (automated response)
- Ambulance Services
Emergency - Ambulance Phone 10177
Emergency - From Cell phone 112 (automated response)
Phone 021 981 9890
Missing Children Emergency
Phone 072 647 7464
- National Sea Rescue Institute
NSRI Cape Town - Phone 021 449-3500
NSRI Saldhana - Phone 022 714-1726
NSRI Mossel Bay - Phone 044 604-6271
NSRI Port Elizabeth - Phone 041 507-1911
NSRI East London - Phone 043 700-2100
NSRI Durban - Phone 031 361-8567
NSRI Richard's Bay - Phone 035 753-1991
- NSRI Inland Dams and Lakes
Vaal Dam – Dick Manten – 083 626 5128
Hartbeespoort Dam – Rod Pitter – 082 990 5961
Victoria Lake – Graham Hartlett – 082 441 6989
Witbank Dam – Dean Wegerle – 060 962 2620
- SANParks - Table Mountain National Park
In case of emergencies - Phone 021 957 4700
- SANParks - Kruger National Park
In case of emergencies - Phone 013 735 4325
- SANParks general call centre
Phone 012 428 9111
- Airports emergency numbers:
Bloemfontein International - Phone 051 433 2901
Cape Town International - Phone 021 935 9745
Durban International - Phone 031 408 1990
Polokwane International - Phone 015 288 0083
OR Tambo International - Phone 011 941 6200
Lanseria International - Phone 011 659 1229
Kruger Mpumalanga International - Phone 013 750 2937
Pilanesberg Airport - Phone 014 552 2320
Port Elizabeth Airport - Phone 041 404 8323 or 082 809 5237/38
Upington Airport - Phone 054 332 3117/8 or 076 987 3944
If your road trip is taking you outside the borders of South Africa this holiday, you'll need to be clued up on all the details of SA's land-based ports of entry and exit.
South Africa is surrounded by coastline of 2 500km, which explain why there are eight harbours in the country. Other than maritime travel, SA has 10 International Airports and 54 border control point for travellers on land.
According to official SA Tourism data, most travellers using the land-based ports of entry originate from SADC countries, including Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia.
Most South African travellers visiting these aforementioned SADC countries also do so by land, often trekking thousands of kilometres with camper vans and 4x4 trailers to explore places like the Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta and Caprivi strip.
If you're planning a road trip to a SADC country, you should keep in mind the various ports of entry you might have to travel through. Here is the DHA's comprehensive list of SA's land-based ports of entry.