KZN bad drivers, beware

2008-01-11 00:00

A LICENCE demerit system will be introduced in KZN this financial year, according to KZN Transport MEC Bheki Cele.

Speaking at a festive season traffic and crime briefing in Durban yesterday, Cele warned: “We’ll be eating your driver’s licences alive, slowly but surely.”

He said the Australian system on which the local version is modelled provides 12 points. Three points are lost each time a motorist is caught speaking on a cellphone. so just four calls would mean the end of a driver’s licence within a year.

Being caught drinking and driving “will be hell”, he said, adding that the number of points deducted would depend on the level of alcohol in an individual driver’s blood.

“If you lose all your points and your licence, so what?” Cele asked, adding that the one thing that needs to be done is to make it an even bigger offence for a driver to continue driving after his licence has been taken away. He said in Australia, drivers are warned and their licences suspended for a year. Repeat offenders could be sentenced to 15 years in jail, he said.

Cele pointed out that Australia has just 337 road deaths across the country in a whole year while the South African death toll exceeds 1 000 in a month. “But it took 30 years to reach that, which means we need to begin with rigid laws.”

Cele said the main objective is to try hard to change perceptions and understanding of traffic laws in the country. In South Africa, these are regarded as “soft laws”.

In Australia there are no traffic police, just police, and killing a person on the road is a crime.

“Crime on the road is a crime that is just like pulling a trigger!” he stated.

Meanwhile, Cele revealed that out of a provincial total 961 motorists arrested for drinking and driving during the festive season, 583 hailed from Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas.

In comparison, 157 drunk drivers were nabbed in Durban, 93 in Ladysmith and 40 in Empangeni.

His strong warning that drinking and driving will remain at the top of the agenda of all traffic officials in the run-up to Easter, Freedom Day and May Day accompanied a proud announcement that KwaZulu-Natal was responsible for the lion’s share (40%) of the drop in road deaths countrywide.

Not all data from camera traps has been collated and there could still be a speeding “super winner”, warned officials.

Most of the speeding fines went to drivers for outside the province, especially Gauteng, said Cele.

He said one visitor from Gauteng has promised never to drive in KZN again after receiving three fines of R1 000 each in just four days.

Cele said multi-disciplinary roadblocks supported by technology and booze buses at strategic locations across the province during December and January proved the most effective means of enforcement.

“Apart from alcohol and drunken drivers, these roadblocks have produced illegal drugs, stolen goods, illegal foreign persons, wanted criminals and unlicenced drivers,” he said, adding that participation by Customs and Excise and the SA Revenue Service netted tax defaulters while shared technology also exposed defaulters on child maintenance payments.

One man who ran foul of a roadblock had to fork out R95 000 in unpaid maintenance, Cele said.

He added that there is a strong possibility that roadside courts that operate alongside roadblocks would be reinstated.

“However, all these enforcement efforts will eventually come to naught in our attempts to influence public behaviour unless increased penalties, including suspension and endorsement of driving licences and permits, are handed down uniformly by the courts in KwaZulu-Natal,” Cele said.

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