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Speed Cops – Friend or Foe?

08 January 2013, 10:31

It appears that many law enforcement officials in our country today have become more of a ‘cause to a problem’, than ‘the solution to our needs.’ I have never been a fan of the Americans but one thing I do admire about them is the respect and admiration they show towards their people in uniform, no matter how nauseating it is. We all know someone who has been exposed to utter incompetence or who has paid a simple bribe. The fact remains that some of our uniformed personal just give us too many reasons - not to trust them.

I want to discuss one particular aspect of distrust that most of us South Africans have been exposed to and have paid the price for illegally - speeding and other road related fines. Currently around 90% of our traffic police’s monthly revenue comes from issuing fines. We cannot deny that this form of regulation is necessary. These rules and regulations are in place to protect us, the average road user. Ultimately, if we all adhered to these regulations we would all arrive alive. The problem lies with the traffic police who often don’t follow the prescribed procedures of the law when conducting trapping and handing out fines at steady rate of fire! Surely their main goal should be to prevent speeding, not punishing those who are.

The fact is that traffic police officials are constantly issuing illegal speeding fines, feeding off the public’s lack of knowledge of their own basic rights and the laws that they are protected by. The average road user doesn't know the law and the rules that apply to speed trapping. As a result, the majority of fines issued in South Africa are technically wrong and should be deemed invalid and illegal. Being issued with a fine does not mean that you are automatically guilty. However, most of us end up paying these fines due to intimidation.

Below are some examples of where and how our traffic police officials fail to uphold the law;

·        Police spend the majority of their time speed trapping to meet their daily quotas while failing to perform other duties.

·        Police ignore guidelines set out by the ‘Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures for Traffic control’ when using speed measuring equipment.

·        Police setup speed traps where they do not have the required permission to trap.

·        Often the officers that operate equipment do not have the required operating training and/or certificates.

·        Traffic officials do edit and tamper with the photo images used for evidence.

·        Ultimately, the police abuse their position and intimidate motorist, threatening them with arrests.

Fines must comply with the Road Traffic Act of 1996, Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and the AARTO Act of 1998. These laws and acts are for all the motorists’ on our roads, and contrary to their beliefs, for the traffic police agencies too. The onus in on us to familiarize ourselves with the rules and regulations laid out in these acts. I’d just like to thank those honest, hard-working men and woman who do serve and protect us within the guidelines of the law. Keep up the hard work!

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