The year 2020 saw a drastic decrease in road accidents. Figures produced by Statistics Botswana show that for the period 2020 (which was the height of the pandemic), the number of road accidents recorded went down by 19.1 percent from 18,623 accidents recorded in 2019. A closer look shows that on average, road accidents had decreased by 4.9 percent annually from 2011. Casualties recorded in 2020 also went down by 21.6 percent from 6,442 casualties recorded in 2019, showing a very noticeable change for the year 2020.
Even in the numbers of people who lost their lives to road accidents, there was a noticeable decrease. During 2020, road crashes that resulted in death were 265 and accounted for 1.8 percent of total road crashes. Serious and minor crashes accounted for 3.4 percent and 16.0 percent of total crashes respectively. The rest of the crashes (78.8 percent) resulted in damages to vehicles only. Most of the accidents (85.5 percent) in 2020 occurred on tarred roads. This was a 20.9 percent decrease compared to 2019. Gravel roads had 6.6 percent of the total accidents while sand had the lowest number of accidents at 3.9 percent.
This is evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic had a hand in the reduction of road accidents. Firstly, the restriction of movement of people meant that there were fewer vehicles on the road, hence the reduced accidents. Secondly, the closure of beer drinking outlets meant a reduction of accidents involving people under the influence of alcohol.
There was also decongestion on the road network, thus reducing the probability of accident occurrence. According to an MVA report, the A1 Highway, which has been observed to be the busiest traffic corridor in the country, experiences a very high frequency of fatalities mostly because of speed, stray animals and fatigue. Looking at the time of accident occurrences in 2020, 84.5 percent of the total crashes occurred between 0600hours and 2200 hours.
There was also a decrease of 14.4 percent in traffic violations committed in 2020 from 352,556 violations in 2019. The months that had the most traffic violations were January and February, accounting for 11.2 percent of total traffic violations each. This was the period when the pandemic was beginning to take its toll. There was a drastic drop from 31,545 road traffic violations in March to only 84,793 offences committed on roads nationwide. This is attributed to the total lockdown, leaving only vehicles associated with essential services on the road.
Accidents peaked on Saturdays, accounting for 18.4 percent, followed by 17.1 percent on Fridays while those that happened on Sundays were 13.7 percent of the total. This trend, however, was the same as the one obtained in previous years.