New driver rules hailed

2012-06-27 00:00

IT’S about time the brakes were applied to new and inexperienced drivers.

So said a number of commentators after looking at what could be in store if changes are made to the National Traffic Act.

Others questioned whether there was the capacity to police the proposed laws.

One is that recently qualified drivers should first have temporary licences for a year, during which time they would not be allowed to drive between midnight and 4 am.

The draft bill also proposes a two-year licence suspension for any road rule violations by new drivers.

It is further proposed that new drivers should display a big red P on their vehicles and keep logbooks, which officers must sign.

“This is something we have been calling for,” said Rob Handfield-Jones of the Automobile Association (AA).

“This law has worked well in other countries, and it is about time that it was introduced here.”

“It will also have an impact on youngsters who might be out clubbing, and likely to be under the influence of alcohol,” Handfield-Jones added, pointing out that people are four times more likely to be killed in road accidents than any other way.

Echoing Handfield-Jones was Victor Chetty, who has been a traffic official with the Hibiscus Coast Municipality for 22 years.

He said South Africans shouldn’t criticise, but rather embrace the government’s intention.

KZN Transport MEC Willies Mchunu is also in favour of any law that could decrease fatalities.

Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of Justice Project South Africa, was more critical.

He told The Witness that keeping new drivers off the roads between midnight and 4 am was impractical. “It doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said.

“If they’re trying to combat drunk driving, it won’t help because it is just not new drivers who drink and drive.”

Dembovsky felt sorry for inexperienced drivers who faced losing their licences for two years for speeding. “It is very easy to creep from 60 km/h to 70 km/h, and the difference between 120 km/h and 130 km/h is very small.”

Dembovsky also felt corruption needed to be rooted out for the law to be effective.

“I don’t think it will do anything to halt people getting their licences fraudulently. We should tackle that issue.”

A traffic official, who would not be named, said he too was in favour, but questioned whether there would be manpower to police it.

“Youngsters who get their licences have two things on their minds, partying and speeding,” he said.

“We need to put fear into them and get them aware of the consequences should they misbehave.

“However, we need the appropriate manpower to police this. Currently we don’t have enough staff.

“This may end up just like the demerit system, which was a proposal that has still not been introduced. It keeps getting postponed.”

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma confirmed there were not enough officers to patrol streets in the early hours in an attempt to keep new drivers at home.

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