Badly maintained roads contributing to high injury and death statistics

The percentage of roads that are considered good or very good has fallen to 45%, while 72% of gravel roads are in poor or very poor condition…

Badly maintained roads are a major contributor of South Africa’s high road accident statistics.

This is according to Kirstie Haslam, partner at DSC Attorneys, who says in South Africa, the road quality has been steadily deteriorating over the past decade. “Poor road maintenance that results in potholes and other road surface defects contributes to road accidents, as well as damage to vehicles.” 

In Johannesburg alone, Haslam says that the road network is facing a R7.1 billion in road maintenance and repairs, including resurfacing and reconstruction. 

She highlights that the percentage of roads that are considered good or very good has fallen to 45%, while 72% of gravel roads are in poor or very poor condition. 

What is causing road deterioration?

Haslam points out that the neglect of both tarred and gravel roads across South Africa has led to a backlog that is making it near impossible for local municipalities to get back on track.

“Wear and tear on roads from constant use is normal, but when road maintenance falls behind schedule it can lead to reoccurring potholes, cracks and poor road surfaces,” she says.

She adds that these issues are exacerbated by a steady increase in the number of cars on our roads. “Poor on-going maintenance is generally attributed to bad management, misallocation of funds and general corruption within local government.”

Some of the worst roads in South Africa

Haslam says that the R76 between Viljoenskroon and Steynsrus in the Free State is considered life-threatening due to extremely large potholes and an uneven surface and that poor governance over the last few years has led to a lack of maintenance and repairs.

Residents have also been complaining about Abrahamskraal Road in Bainsvlei, where a disagreement about whose responsibility it is, has caused the road to fall into disrepair. Manguang Metro and the provincial government continue to squabble over it. 

The consequences of poor road maintenance

Haslam explains that bad maintenance contributes significantly to road accidents because the road surface is compromised.

“Large potholes can cause people to drive on the wrong side of the road, lose control of their vehicle or to swerve suddenly,” she says. “Slippery surfaces and loose gravel can also cause cars to skid, especially during panic braking.”

Poor road maintenance can also cause significant damage to vehicles. “Uneven surfaces and potholes can dent wheel rims and can cause undue wear to suspension, alignment, tyres and shocks,” says Haslam. “Prolonged driving on uneven surfaces can also lead to fluid leaks from the engine.”

Claims in the event of injury caused by bad roads

If you are injured in an accident or your car is damaged as a direct result of poor road maintenance, Haslam says that you may be able to claim damages from the local authority or municipality that is responsible for the road’s upkeep.

What to do in event of injury due to badly maintained roads

Haslam advises that accident victims should contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident occurs.

“Record details of the incident, if possible including photos of the accident, damage to vehicles and the road surface,” she says. “Also record the names and contact details of any witnesses that can corroborate the details of the accident and attest to the fact that it was caused by poor road maintenance.”