The government should drop the speed limit in South Africa’s urban areas to help reduce the large number of pedestrian fatalities.
This is according to Open Streets urban designer Kirsten Wilkins, who recently spoke about pedestrian safety in the country on CapeTalk. The discussion followed the release of government’s Easter traffic statistics.
There were 235 fatalities on South Africa’s roads during the 2021 Easter period, of which around 35% were pedestrians.
Wilkins said these statistics highlighted that South Africa’s pedestrians were vulnerable and that safer spaces were required for their movement.
She said that while South Africa’s road network in urban areas was generally of good quality, the typical speed limit of 60km/h presented a problem.
“Traffic data and studies around the world tells us that if you are hit by a car at 60km/h as a pedestrian, your chance of surviving is practically zero.”
“One of the important United Nations road safety solutions is to call for a reduction in speed limits in urban areas,” Wilkins said.
“[This] is the easiest and most effective way to start getting ahead of the problem from the point of view of what government can do,”
She said the United Nations was calling for urban speed limits of 30km/h, something she wished the South African government would support.
Wilkins advised citizens to reach out to their ward councillor in instances where they have identified particular areas with speed limits which are particularly dangerous to pedestrians, such as a busy intersections or outside a school.
Certain residential estates – such as Midstream Estate in Centurion and Silver Lakes in Pretoria – already impose a speed limit of 30km/h.
Government has previously said it was considering reducing South Africa’s speed limits across the board.
In November 2019, the Department of Transport and Road Traffic Management Corporation proposed that baseline top speeds across the country’s roads be reduced by 20km/h.
This would drop the speed limit on various types of roads as follows:
- Highways – 120km/h to 100km/h
- Main roads – 100km/h to 80km/hg
- Residential areas – 60km/h to 40km/h
Department of Transport spokesperson Ayanda Allie-Paine said the legislation was being reviewed to address and bring in place an edifice of various interventions to respond adequately to road safety challenges.
“Among these, a review of the international best practice on speed reductions, as is the case in countries such as Sweden and Australia.”
However, due to the unique situation in South Africa, these could not implemented without an impact assessment study, Allie-Paine stated.
Since that time, however, government has kept mum on any plans to drop speed limits.
The new AARTO law , which introduces a demerit system for South African drivers among other changes, does not contain any adjustments to speed limits.
Kirsten Wilkins interview
Listen to the full interview with Open Streets managing director Kirsten Wilkins on CapeTalk below.