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SOUTH AFRICA’S NEW TRAFFIC LAWS – WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS AND IMPACT ON CAR INSURANCE?

According to Wheels24 (17 March 2017), new draft road regulations are being put into place, planned for implementation some time during 2017. The whole idea behind such a move is to reduce the ongoing carnage on our roads, according the Department of Transport.

Two multimillion dollar questions – what are the implications of such legislation and how will it affect car insurance? Well to put it simply, let’s study the knock-on effect of each of the following steps:

What will the impact be of these new laws?

  • A reduction in road accidents and fewer car insurance claims
  • More lives saved and less injuries
  • Fewer car insurance claims made
  • Car cover premiums reduced or kept low
  • More uninsured motorists can afford to buy car cover

The success of all the above bullets depend on this last bullet:

  • Traffic laws are enforced by the State

Let’s unpack each of the above points so that we can get a better idea.

THE PROPOSED NEW ROAD REGULATIONS

According to Wheels24 (17 March 2017), draft regulations are being put into place about lowering speed limits, prohibiting the practice of transporting more than 5 people or any children in a bakkie’s load bay, and restricting the use of heavy vehicles on public roads during peak travelling times. The whole idea behind such a move is to reduce the ongoing carnage on our roads. According the Department of Transport, these regulations are planned for implementation some time during 2017.

The proposed changes include a change in speed limits, namely, a reduction in urban areas from 100 km/h to 80 km/h, and from 60 km/h to 40 km/h. Although these limits are not yet in force for motor vehicles, they already apply to mid-sized commercial vehicles of gross vehicle mass between 3 500kg and 9 000kg, which may not exceed 100 km/h.

WHAT IMPACT WILL THE NEW TRAFFIC LAWS HAVE?

REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF CAR ACCIDENTS

Reducing the speed limits as described should lead to a reduction of accidents. It means that because the motorist is going slower, there will be more time to react in a situation and take evasive action.

An Arrive Alive report mentions that in 2015 there were a total of 832 431 road traffic crashes, involving a total of 1 708 414 people. Of these people, 13 591 died, 62 520 were seriously injured and 202 509 slightly injured.

REDUCTION IN CAR INSURANCE CLAIMS

If hypothetically 35% of the vehicles involved in these crashes were insured, that means there could have been 291 350 car insurance claims, based on the 832 431 road crashes. If, for instance, implementation of the new road laws could produce just a 10% reduction in car crashes per year, this would translate to a saving of 29 135 car insurance claims. Well, if every insurance claim averaged say a conservative R10 000/claim, this would amount to a staggering saving of R292 350 000. Such a saving should substantially affect the car cover premiums.

HOW MANY LIVES COULD BE SAVED, AND INJURIES REDUCED?

According to BusinessTech (May 2016), South Africa has the 42nd highest road mortality rate in the world, with 25.1 road deaths per 100,000 population. Nevertheless, South Africa ranks 34th on the African continent.

Wheels24 (11 January 2017) mentions SA transport minister Dipuo Peters released road fatality statistics showing 1714 people were killed on South African roads from December 1, 2016 to January 9, 2017. This is a 4% increase over the same period in 2015/16, when 1629 people died on South Africa’s roads. Even one road death is one too many.

Can you imagine for instance a 30% reduction in road fatalities – that means for the 2016/2017 year, 514 lives would have been saved in one year! And what about any life policies that would not have been paid out?

CAR INSURANCE – WHO CAN AFFORD IT?

It’s a well-known fact that only 35% of all motorists on South African roads have car insurance. It may be a silly question but what about the other 65%? They just simply cannot afford the premiums. This is not a healthy situation to say the least. Hence the importance of reducing the car crash numbers so that premiums can possibly be reduced, which in turn would reduce the 65% of uninsured.

Nevertheless, the critical success factor for all the foregoing improvement in road safety depends on the last bullet.

NO ENFORCEMENT – NO LAW

Without law enforcement, the actual value or worth of a particular law is just reduced to the value or worth of the piece of paper on which it is printed. No law enforcement makes any law meaningless. Remember the rules at home when you were small – they were very much there because Mom or Dad would be constantly reminding you of them, and of the consequences of breaking them! Actually it is as simple as this – with enforcement, we have a law, but with no enforcement, there is no law.

The 2013 World Health Organisation’s Global Status Report on Road Safety revealed that South Africa, together with India, had a rating of 2.6 out of 10 on the quality of law enforcement among 100 randomly selected countries.

The report further found that there was a strong correlation between the quality of law enforcement and fatality rates -- the lower the quality of enforcement the higher the fatality rates. No wonder that the African region continues to have the highest road traffic death rates.

The lawlessness on our roads is no mystery – what with cars (especially taxis) overtaking on the left on the dirt emergency verge of the road, driving in the wrong lane facing oncoming traffic, driving through red traffic lights – and so the list goes on and on.

The problem with lawlessness is that it’s not static but a dynamic situation, that is growing not better but worse by the day. As people realize that there is very little law enforcement, they begin to take more and more chances. We sometimes gasp out of unbelief at the sheer brazenness of some motorists.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IMPROVING LAW ENFORCEMENT?

The 2015 World Health Organisation’s Global Status Report on Road Safety states that a critical success factor of the holistic “Safe Systems” approach advocated in this Report is the whole issue of changing road user behaviour. How can this best be achieved regarding South African motorists?

The Report says that law enforcement really works in changing this behaviour regarding the five key risk factors for road injuries, namely, speeding, drunk–driving, and the failure to use helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. In addition, currently, global law enforcement was also inadequate with respect to all five behavioural risk factors.

The Report finds that the greatest changes in motorist behaviour happen when law enforcement is “strong” and “sustained,” and that motorists are made aware of why the new law is in place, and the consequences of noncompliance. The two words “strong” and “sustained” are addressed below.

CHANGING TO A CULTURE OF ‘ZERO TOLERANCE’

So there has to be a day-to-day law enforcement of zero tolerance. It has to be 24/7, and not just a huge hype of enforcement when it comes to the Easter weekend or Christmas. It will not be easy to start off with as the traffic police are now ‘spoiling’ the fun that the lawless motorists were so enjoying.

But after some time, motorists will perk up and begin to notice, and realise they can’t get away with murder any more. The news will spread, and a culture change will take place for the better. The critical success factor in all of this is law enforcement – but do the agencies have enough resources to sustain a ‘no tolerance’ policy towards traffic offenders?

CAN THE CAR INSURANCE INDUSTRY HELP?

So what about the car insurance industry? Can they help? There is great power in unity – what if the short-term insurance industry including Prime Meridian Direct (PMD) got together to meet with for instance the Minister of Transport regarding a strategy for improving law enforcement on our roads? For instance the AARTO system, that was made into law in 1999 (17 years ago!) could be seriously enforced within a certain time frame.

They say, where there is a will, there is a way – let’s not rest until law enforcement is fully implemented!

Sources:

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