Despite South Africa being one of the most beautiful countries in the world, it is also one of the most dangerous as far as drunken driving is concerned. According to the 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety, of the 13 273 people that died on the roads of South Africa during the year, 58% were in alcohol-related accidents. Statistics further indicate that Gauteng and KZN have the highest percentage of alcohol-related road deaths in the country with each province contributing to just under 20% of the national total. These astounding figures point to an immense need for effective measures to not only reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads but to severely punish the offenders as well.
A valuable initiative born from a mother’s grief
In September 2005 Chas Smit, the lead guitarist of prominent local band Plush was killed by a drunk driver as he was crossing the road outside a nightclub in Pietermaritzburg. The driver, a prominent figure in local educational circles, was acquitted of both culpable homicide and drunk driving in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate Court in 2006 due to what was believed to be a lack of evidence. The incident, however, inspired Caro Smit, mother of Chas to launch an NPO known as South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD), an organisation fervently working towards protecting families from unnecessary death by eradicating drunk driving. Today, SADD is a multiple-award winning initiative and member of the Global Alliance of Road Safety NGOs. The organisation’s website even features a ‘wall of shame’ where the names of convicted drunk drivers are made public.
Education is key in reducing drunk driving on our roads
SADD’s main focus is to provide education in terms of the dangers associated with drunken driving. They aim to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries by 50% by 2020. Every year the organisation takes to the road, visiting university and colleges campuses across the country. Their presentations are hard-hitting as Caro firmly believes that the harsh reality of driving under the influence should not be sugar-coated. This year alone the SADD team has already visited the Varsity College campus in Pietermaritzburg as well as CPUT campuses in both Cape Town and Wellington. Despite a lot of emphasis being placed on educating the youth, the onus of road safety doesn’t solely lie with them as young and old drivers alike need to be vigilant in enforcing safe driving practices.
As much as Caro and her team would like to single-handedly obliterate drunken driving, it is not possible. It will take a great combined effort by both the South African government and the community to combat the evil that is tearing families apart. Drinking while under the influence is always a choice, if you drink don’t drive, and if you drive, don’t drink – it truly is that simple.