'Govt too soft on traffic offences’

2012-12-28 00:00

INTEREST groups agree that South African motorists routinely break the law, but say the blame for this must be put at the government’s door.

“You cannot just clean your home only when guests come to visit,” said Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of Justice Project South Africa.

“Regretfully, motorists will act as they are allowed to act. And it does not help that motorists get away with small transgressions during the year, and during the Christmas period they are expected to obey every law.”

He said South African motorists drove like “naughty children” who are allowed to “run around wildly”, but said that if traffic laws were applied stringently throughout the year, motorists would know the consequences of their actions.

Caro Smit, director of the non-profit organisation South Africans Against Drunk Driving (Sadd), said the only way to get drivers to change their behaviour was for the authorities to apply traffic laws 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“People will only change their behaviour if they know they will be severely punished. It is surely no deterrent if a drunk speed freak is let out on bail of R2 000.”

Rob Handfield-Jones, a specialist in defensive driving, agreed that the government was not doing enough to stop the carnage on the roads, and said its focus was on earning money by issuing speeding fines.

“Drivers in this country can get away with almost any traffic violation as long as they remain below the speed limit.”

Handfield-Jones said that road deaths had increased during the December holidays in the past five years.

Dembovsky said the authorities had blood on their hands this year because they knew what needed to be done to ensure better law enforcement and did not do it.

“Can authorities not see that their strategies are not working? Roadblocks here and there do not work.”

Bokkie Badenhorst, a researcher, believes the government is not doing enough to rectify obvious causes of collisions, like people who are night-blind but still drive.

“People have to be tested for night blindness during the learner phase and then prepared for this.”

Economist Roelof Botha said government policies were to blame for many collisions because “a third of the country’s roads are in a very poor condition” and could have been fixed cheaply if it were not for corruption.

Ashref Ismail, a spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), acknowledged that official road safety strategies needed to be reviewed.

However, he added, the corporation was doing its best, with 17 000 officers who had to patrol 750 000 km of roads nationwide.

He said people were apportioning blame wrongly.

He said the RTMC pulled about one million vehicles off the road and arrested more than 1 000 drunk drivers each month.

“This work is not just being done during the Christmas season.”

Ismail said there would never be enough resources to police South Africa’s nine million motorists.

“That is why we must place our members strategically at the most dangerous places.”

He said road deaths would decrease only if motorists, the media, police and the Department of Justice co-operated.

Transport Minister Ben Martins yesterday expressed his concern at the number of people who have died on the roads so far this December.

 He warned that there was zero tolerance for drunk, speeding or reckless drivers.

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