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Survey completion date: January 2011

A survey conducted on behalf of Tom Tom and Craving Novity, by Acentric Marketing Research reveals a disturbing traffic situation on SA’s roads. The survey was conducted online amongst 962 South African road users, and completed in January 2011. In total, at least 3.8 million people are estimated to drive vehicles to work on an almost daily basis in South Africa. Of these roughly 2.2 million sit in a traffic jam on any given day. An astounding 1.4 million are late for work every day, and another 342,000 are estimated to have meetings cancelled on any given work day as a result of traffic.

The economic impact

South African’s are being exposed to ever more gruelling travel times. Nationally, a quarter of drivers (26%) reported spending more than 45 minutes travelling to work, while in Gauteng this increased to one third (35%) of drivers. Over half indicated that they were stuck in a traffic jam on their most recent trip to work, while a third (35.9%) eventually arrived late. Overall, 40% reported being at least 30 minutes late or more (up to 3 hours in a few cases).

The total economic impact is devastating. Simply by being late for work, it is estimated that – every month – approximately R1.1 billion is lost to companies in terms of salary costs. This excludes other costs resulting from meeting cancellations. Over a third of those surveyed were late for work on their most recent trip, while approximately 8% claimed that a meeting had been delayed as a result of traffic on their most recent work related trip.

The impact on health

Besides the obvious impact of frequent traffic-jam exposure on the stress experienced in traffic, the survey also showed that the impact of traffic jams reached beyond the immediate experience. The survey results indicated that those exposed to traffic jam related stress on a daily basis, had a 64% higher level of perceived general-life stress (versus those who never experienced traffic jam related stress on the way to work). Since academic research has shown a clear link between perceptions of general-life stress (using a similar set of questions) and susceptibility to infection (Cohen, 1993) traffic jams are clearly a cause for concern.

Besides the resultant stress and potential links with disease, traffic jams create a range of negative emotional reactions during the event. When drivers were asked to describe their emotional reaction to traffic jams, most mentioned very extreme emotion – “hatred” being the most commonly mentioned response.

The impact on children and parents

Besides the economic and emotional toll, the impact on children in our society is also deeply troubling. Extrapolating from the survey data, it is estimated that 435,000 children are left stranded -on any given work day – as parents are late picking them up from work from school/crèche. Statistical analysis revealed that being late fetching a child from school/crèche, was the most likely to induce stress during a trip (of any event measured, even violent events such as witnessing the aftermath of traffic accidents).

Many schools/crèches also impose fines on parents when they are late, adding to the economic burden.

Perceptions of environmental impact

The impact on the environment is also devastating. In total 96% of drivers believe that reducing traffic by just 15% would lower air pollution levels.

Important notes:

1.) The Tom Tom traffic survey results reported by the Beeld newspaper were incorrect. In particular references to Johannesburg are misleading, as the survey report did not provide statistics at this level of detail (only national and Gauteng statistics were provided). In addition, certain of the statistics (such as the claim that “78% of the 3.8 million drivers on Johannesburg roads are stuck in a severe traffic jam on a daily basis”) have no basis in fact.

2.) Rounding applied to figures displayed. 3.) According to AMPS 2010B, there are 3,808,644 owners/users of vehicles who work full or part-time. 3.) No responsibility will be accepted for consequential losses if reliance is made on these figures. Only for illustration . Limitations possibly include: Sampling error (all samples have a certain amount of error – see the reported margin of error) and the assumption that the % of respondents late on any one work day can be used to estimate the probability of any one individual being late.