Authors: G Wright & H Ribbens

Keyword: road safety, traffic accidents, South Africa


The objective of the paper is to explore the relationship between crime and road safety as well as the impact of criminal activities on the road environment in South Africa. These relationships have not been fully explored in the South African context, with its high road accident and fatality rates, and high levels of exposure to crime. The paper shows that criminal activities in the road environment extend significantly beyond the mere committing of road traffic offences and may have a negative impact on the safe operation of the road network and broader road environment, in addition to endangering the lives of road users and innocent bystanders. The impact of crime on road safety can be considered from various angles, the paper therefore uses a multidisciplinary approach to analyse the extent of the problem more comprehensively. A multi-disciplinary approach to analyse the safety and security of the road environment includes the potential role of sciences such as town-planning, transportation planning, information technology, ITS and traffic engineering, criminology, social psychology and road traffic management. Firstly, the paper provides an overview of research findings and practices regarding the relationship between crime and road safety, through the inputs from different disciplines. Secondly, the paper describes the criminal activities in South Africa that may have a negative impact on road safety. This includes a wide range of activities within the road environment, vehicle related crimes and road user behaviour. Other crime related incidences include the mugging of pedestrians and cyclists, taxi violence and conflict between taxi associations endangering both drivers and commuters, etc. Thirdly, the paper highlights some of the crime prevention and road safety interventions prevalent locally and internationally. Shortcomings and challenges associated with gaining more effective control over criminal activities in the road environment in South Africa are also mentioned. The paper concludes that a more focused operational approach and research are required to determine the impact of crime on road safety in South Africa. In addition, an extensive scoping of international best practices could assist in a better understanding of the impact of the phenomenon, and to develop appropriate countermeasures to effectively deal with it.