The Easter Weekend is upon us, signalled by an increase in
traffic and travel times across South Africa.
Known as a time for relaxation, adventure and festivities,
Easter weekend offers citizens a welcomed reprieve. The long weekend provides the
perfect opportunity for family getaways – to connect with relatives in other
regions or just to get away from the overfamiliarity of home.
Easter, a deadly time on South African roads
— Road Traffic Management Corporation (@TrafficRTMC) April 18, 2019
Unfortunately, this four-day break comes at a heavy price.
Easter weekend is known as one of the deadliest times on South African roads. The
increase in traffic, particularly on national highways, coupled with reckless driving
and unroadworthy vehicles makes for a daunting sojourn.
For the last few years, the death toll over this period has
risen steadily. In 2018, 510 people were killed on South African roads over the
Easter period, with countless more maimed and injured as a result of the
As expected, law enforcement makes a concerted effort to
curb the mayhem and loss of life. Last year, 3208 vehicles, stopped at roadblocks
and checkpoints, were found to be unlicensed. More than 6000 motorists were
bust for speeding. According to Transport Deputy Minister, Sindi Chikunga, the
total cost of road accidents on the South African economy exceeded R300
Easter traffic: Busiest routes to be aware of
N3 highway between Johannesburg and Durban
The most popular route during the Easter period is the N3
highway between Johannesburg and Durban. The annual migration to the coast is
something traffic agencies prepare for but almost always seems to
underestimate. Almost 150 000 vehicles are expected to depart from Gauteng
via the N3 highway on the eve of Good Friday.
It’s no wonder, then, that KwaZulu-Natal experiences the
highest annual death toll around the Easter period. Last year, 111 people died
on roads in KwaZulu-Natal. During the same period, 89 people died on Gauteng’s
roads, making both provinces the deadliest over the Easter period.
N1 highway through Limpopo
Simon Zwane, the spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), confirmed that the N1 national highway, particularly between Gauteng and Limpopo experiences a massive surge in traffic around the Easter Weekend. This is, in part, due to the travel arrangements of foreign nationals who head home for the holidays; mainly to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Zwane noted that, at this time of year, border gates became
congested and overwhelmed by the increase of traffic going to neighbouring
countries. Last year, 80 people lost their lives on Limpopo’s roads.
N4 highway between Botswana and Mozambique
The N4 highway, although one of the shortest routes on the
list, experiences an unusually high volume of traffic over the Easter period,
leading to a rise in vehicular casualties in the North West province. The 718
kilometre stretch of tarmac, which passes through Pretoria, was, in 2018,
responsible for carrying 129 489 vehicles on the eve of Good Friday,
making it the third busiest highway in the country.
N1 highway in the Western Cape
The N1 highway, southbound to Cape Town, also experiences a
huge volume of traffic over the Easter weekend. The migration to the coast sees
in excess of 100 000 vehicles operate along the N1, with the added danger
of northbound traffic – particularly in the form of busses carrying migrant
workers – leading to some particularly disastrous congestion and collisions.
The 200 kilometre stretch between Laingsburg and Beaufort
West is particularly treacherous and has, over the years, acquired a
devastating death toll. Traffic agencies
blame most of these deaths on over-exhaustion and reckless driving.
How to prepare for your Easter trip
The Arrive Alive initiative, designed to provide an effective road safety information, has some useful tips for motorists embarking on a long journey this Easter.
Before embarking on your journey
Check vehicle safety. All lights and indicators, windscreen wipers,
brakes, steering, exhaust system and tyres should be carefully examined for
faults. If you’re concerned about the roadworthiness of your vehicle, you can have
a pre-tip examination done at any AA Technical Centre.
- Carry a spare fan belt, radiator hose and tire in the boot.
- Check your insurance policies and license registration compliance. Your valid driver’s license needs to be with you at all times.
- Plan your route carefully.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol
- Do not use your cellphone or any other electronic device while operating a motor vehicle
- Fatigue and eye strain can be avoided by making frequent rest stops. Driver changes at rest stops are also advisable. It is advisable to include safety breaks every two hours or 200 kilometres, as this will reduce fatigue levels.
- Always wear your seatbelt and maintain a safe following distance
If stopped at a roadblock or police checkpoint
You are legally bound to comply if a law enforcement
- Requests your driver’s licence and ID.
- Checks for outstanding fines.
- Checks the vehicle’s licence disk and ensure the car is roadworthy.
- Requests the driver to exit the vehicle
- Requests that the driver perform a breathalyser test
Note that an officer may only arrest you if:
- You are found to be driving under the influence.
- You have been driving recklessly, carelessly or dangerously.
- You are willfully obstructing the roadway.
- You are found to be driving with a cancelled or disqualified licence.
- Police suspect you may have committed or are about to commit a crime.
- You verbally or physically abuse an officer. Any racial slurs, threats, crude gestures or physical contact could result in arrest. Also preventing an officer from doing their job is a criminal offence.
Outstanding fines cannot lead to arrest unless you have
defaulted on a court appearance and a warrant for your arrest has been issued.
You have the right to verify the authenticity of a roadblock
by requesting to see the officer’s identification. If you are still unsure of
the authenticity thereof, you may request to be taken to the nearest police
Planned protests on Easter Weekend
Traffic, already under pressure this Easter weekend, may be further disrupted by planned protest action threatened by truck drivers. According to Transport Minister, Blade Nzimande, truck drivers are threatening a nationwide shutdown of major highways as the result of a bitter wage dispute.
Nzimande has assured all travellers that law enforcement will
be on hand to deal with any disruptions and that any protests who disrupt
traffic will be placed under arrest.