The casualty rate of road vehicle accidents in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. This trend has persisted with little variation over the years, despite the efforts of local road safety organisations and research institutions to decrease them. Some of these road vehicle accidents are due to a mechanical failure of the vehicle. The main goal of this study is to establish how high the incidence of mechanical failure is in these accidents. And further to assess if these percentages of mechanical failures do coincide with trends already indicated nationally as well as internationally. Detailed information on the condition of vehicles was collected in and around the Pretoria area. Surveys were conducted to obtain local road and traffic information about vehicle conditions. The one survey was defined as Potential Mechanical Defect Tests (PMDT) where vehicles were stopped and given a brief mechanical inspection, and the other was a Minibus Survey where information was obtained about the age of the vehicle and the overall condition and pressure of tyres. Additional information was obtained from the Accident Response Unit (ARU) and the Forensic Sciences Laboratories, both of the South African Police Services in Pretoria. The findings of the study are that according to the data collected by the ARU over a period of 2,5 years, on average 3,3% of the accidents reported per year in the region were caused by mechanical failures. These identified percentages correspond with values obtained for international countries. The PMDT data indicate that 40% of the vehicles surveyed in suburban areas and 29% of the vehicles surveyed on the highway had mechanical defects that contravened current road and traffic regulations. The difference between the percentages indicates that the condition of vehicles inspected in the suburban area differs significantly from the condition of those using the highway. In the Minibus Survey, large irregularities in tyre pressure were identified as cause for concern. In general, all of the above findings indicated that maintenance on older vehicles seemed to receive less attention. It is proposed that annual vehicle inspections should be introduced, especially for vehicles carrying fare-paying passengers, to improve road safety standards on South African roads.
Dissertation (M Eng (Mechanical Engineering))--University of Pretoria, 2006.