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Road safety and the impact on your insurance

Road safety and the impact on your insurance
17-05-22 / Staff Writer

Road safety and the impact on your insurance

Johannesburg - Despite efforts by various stakeholders’, road safety continues to be a concern in South Africa. According to a recent study by Zutobi on ‘The World’s Safest Roads’, the country is sadly considered one of the most dangerous countries to drive in, being listed among the worst for road accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Pedestrians are most at risk, especially in communities where there is a lack of proper road infrastructure. 

“A massive obstacle and barrier to improved road safety of the national fleet is that there are so many uninsured, underinsured and unroadworthy vehicles on our roads,” says Lizo Mnguni, spokesperson for Old Mutual Insure. 

Of the estimated 11 million cars and drivers on the country’s roads, it is believed that only about one third, approximately 3.5 million are insured. This means that if a driver is in an accident, the chances are high that involves an uninsured driver. 

Current trends in road safety and accidents 

“One of the trends we are seeing in terms of claims, is that the number of road incidents like accidents, both fender benders and more serious events, is almost exactly back to what it was pre-COVID-19, which is very worrying,” says Mnguni.  

He explains that pre-pandemic there was a higher frequency of vehicles on the road. During COVID-19, when motorists weren’t using their vehicles as much, the number of claims for road-related incidents dropped. Now that many organisations have adopted hybrid working models and curfews have been suspended, drivers are back on the road and more serious accidents, many of which involve fatalities, are being reported. 

Another factor that Mnguni notes as concerning and impacting road safety, is that road infrastructure has not kept up with the number of drivers on the roads today. It has been well publicised that many of South Africa’s agricultural and non-urban towns are struggling to keep up with the potholes on their roads, and to fix these requires significant investment, or for communities to foot the bill themselves. 

“It has often been reported that drivers have accidents involving damaged rims and tyres while swerving or trying to avoid hitting a pothole.”

The impact on insurance

Mnguni says that when there are more road incidents, this translates into higher premiums. 

“The biggest cost driver in insurance in South Africa is a high number of accidents as well as vehicle theft rates. These are largely driven by poor enforcement as well as the large number of unlicensed vehicles and drivers on the country’s roads,” says Mnguni. “If road safety improves, drivers can look forward to lower premiums.” 

He says over the long-term AARTO – a pending regulation - should improve road safety by reducing the number of unlicensed drivers and vehicles on South Africa’s roads, which may also impact favourably on the cost of insurance, although the devil is in the detail. 

“Ultimately, the intention of the regulations was meant to improve driving outcomes in general, which is desperately needed in SA.”  

So what can drivers do, or are they simply at the mercy of uninsured drivers, or needing to swerve if a pothole suddenly appears? 

“Road safety doesn’t just impact people’s lives; it directly impacts your back-pocket when it comes to your insurance premiums. These are the best incentives to be road safe, ensure your vehicle is well maintained and you are adequately insured,” says Mnguni.  

He offers the below tips for drivers to take charge of their own safety on the roads: 

  • Make sure that your vehicle is in a roadworthy condition before departure.
  • Obey the speed limit - Speed is the highest contributing factor in fatal accidents. You can make a difference on the roads by simply driving at the speed limit. Consider this – it’s better to arrive at your destination safely than quickly
  • Guard against distractions while driving, and always ensure all vehicle occupants wear a seat belt.
  • Take your vehicle for a full check before embarking on your holiday travels.

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