South Africa’s transport department has supported the idea of scrapping the K53 testing system which was meant to improve driving standards and road safety across the country.
Sindisiwe Chikunga, the Deputy Transport Minister, confirmed the department’s decision on the testing system at the launch of the UN’s Global Road Safety Week at Acacia Primary School in Verulam on Monday.
According to her, the K53 testing system will be scrapped due to the high levels of corruption surrounding testing centres and the increasing death toll on South African roads.
The department’s decision on the system follows Makhosini Msibi, the chief executive at the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC)’s suggestion to parliamentary portfolio committee that the K53 system needed to be reviewed.
“The RTMC is our state-owned company and advises us. When it is time for you to get your licence, make sure that you don’t buy it. Many of the drivers we are talking about are not able to drive because they did not pass their learner’s licence exam,” she said.
“If you have a driver’s licence and you do not know the rules of the road, you will end up overtaking on barrier lines as you will not know what barrier lines mean.”
RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane noted further that over 75% of accidents occurring on SA roads are due to drivers making mistakes they shouldn’t be making.
Chikunga, however, noted how difficult it would be to say when the proposed scrapping will become a reality as the department would still need to formally propose and table the review in Parliament, which, she said, could take up to two years.
Reviewing the K53 testing system is long overdue, says Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa who also added that many countries around the world had dropped the K53 system since South Africa adopted it more than 20 years ago.
“These matters must be looked at holistically and not just from a narrow perspective. It is not only drivers but pedestrians and other road users who should be educated,” said Dembovsky, pointing out the need for drivers to be tested on how to see hazards on the road and be able to anticipate them.
Dembovsky also urged those with Professional Driving Permits such as drivers carrying hazardous goods, to go through the proper training.
Caro Smit, of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, also admitted to the need to scrap the K53 testing system saying “It is time.” She, however, noted that the reviewed system should give more information about drinking while driving as 60% of crashes on SA roads involved alcohol.
Smit said Driving schools should also be looked at as there was a need for standardised training for them. She said it was wrong for someone to get their licence today and start a driving school the next day.
The driving instructors themselves did not follow the rules of the road – for example, they often do not fasten their seat belts when they conducted their training, Smit concluded saying.