Preliminary reports indicate that the road death toll over the holiday season has decreased, but the transport department is not convinced and has suggested that traffic officers be available around the clock.

Preliminary reports indicate that the road death toll over the holiday season has decreased, but the transport department is not convinced and has suggested that traffic officers be available around the clock.

The number of crashes per 10 000 vehicles is estimated to have dropped by 1,48 per cent, while the number of road fatalities has decreased by 0,82 per cent per 10 000 vehicles.

However, the national transport department has said that the decrease was not enough, considering the resources used during the period and the 6,25 per cent increase in traffic volumes.

Director-general of the Department of Transport, Wrenelle Stander, said: "We expected a much higher drop in the growth rate.”

The department has now decided to make traffic policing an essential service to visibly reduce the high number of road deaths. Should this happen, traffic officials will be required to work under the same conditions as police officers, nurses and emergency services personnel. They will also not be allowed to strike.

In most municipalities, traffic officials are not available at night, and motorists often commit serious violations at the end of the working day. But while some bigger municipalities do have 24-hour shifts, staff is usually scaled down after office hours when there are less vehicles on the roads.

"We'll negotiate with the labour department to ensure traffic policing is approved as an essential service before year-end," Stander said.