With a rise in the number of people using motorbikes or scooters due to the recent high fuel prices and traffic congestion, experts say there has been a dramatic increase in accidents involving two-wheel vehicles. Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa spokesperson Gary Ronald said nationally there had been an increase of 156 000 between January 2000 and January 2008.He said in January 2000 there had been 158 000 accidents reported and in January 2008 this figure had increased to 314 000.
Ronald said that high fuel prices and time spent in traffic was making two wheeled vehicles more attractive, but there was a lack of facilities where new bike riders could train, resulting in a lack of road handling experience and leading to increased accidents.
The affordability of scooters also meant we could see more of them on the road, with an increased danger of car and scooter accidents.
Head of the emergency centre at the Cape Town Medi-Clinic Dr Brian Gutuza said he had seen a three-fold increase in motorcycle related injuries in this year alone.
Gutuza said as he was treating people who lived in the middle of an urban centre most injuries he saw were from low speed collisions with motor vehicles and pedestrians, but hospitals near major highways might treat more high speed accident victims.
He said there was a need for more awareness of motorbikes and motorists needed to be aware that there were more motorcycles around.
He said motorbike users also needed to be more cautious and wear protective clothing, even for short trips, and be aware that busy congested roads made it easy for other road users to overlook a motorbike.
City of Cape Town Traffic Department spokesperson Merle Lourens said there was a 50% increase in people writing motorbike learner license tests over the past four months, but said she had not noted an increase in biking accidents.
City of Cape Town mayor Helen Zille, speaking at the opening of the Second International Road Traffic Accident Investigation and Reconstruction Conference on Monday, said roads were key to unlocking economic activity and needed to function efficiently and safely.
Zille said research which could help identify the causes of accidents, reduce risk factors and improve the efficiency with which accident scenes were handled was valuable for public safety and the economy. She said the City was re-launching its Road Incident Management System and introducing rigorous measures to prevent road accidents.
* Reporting by Yugendree Naidoo.