City road rogues can no longer ask for lower fines, must go to court

2017-11-22 13:55
Pietermaritzburg's justice officials have adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to traffic offences and will no longer entertain appeals for leniency from those who transgress traffic rules.

Pietermaritzburg's justice officials have adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to traffic offences and will no longer entertain appeals for leniency from those who transgress traffic rules. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg's justice officials have sent a stern warning out to traffic offenders in the city.

They have adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to traffic offences and will no longer entertain appeals for leniency from those who transgress traffic rules.

Motorists who are nabbed may no longer write to the Senior Public Prosecutor in the hope of being granted a reduction in their fines.

A notice issued by the Senior Public Prosecutor’s office confirmed that as from November 13 a “zero tolerance approach” towards traffic violations “especially during this time of year” was being enforced.

The initiative, it says, is supported by the office of the KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions.

“The total disregard for the traffic regulations and the consequent accidents that our city is plagued with is the main reason for this approach,” the notice says.

Instead of writing to the Senior Public Prosecutor, motorists who find themselves on the wrong side of the law are welcome to approach the court, put their mitgating factors before the court and request the court to reduce their fine.

The policy comes just days after The Witness reported on the extent of lawlessness on Pietermaritzburg roads, with more than 100 motorists spotted driving through red traffic lights at various intersections in a snap survey by the paper. Forty-eight cars crossed against the lights at Chota Motala and Willowton Road intersection in just 15 minutes, it was reported.

The City was then roundly criticised for its response in that report, where it said it had never received complaints about unruly motorists. It was reported on Monday that irate residents said the City should be well aware of the apparent lawlessness on the roads.

Caro Smit, of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, welcomed the policy. “It shows that the authorities are beginning to view traffic infringements as serious crimes.”

She said: “I hope they will follow up by enforcing an automatic suspension of the licence for six months for certain crimes on the road.”

She added that deaths resulting from drunk driving were on the increase, and that authorities needed to begin taking a tougher approach.

But Justice Project South Africa, a traffic law watchdog, dismissed the policy, saying it could “have unintended consequences”.

“The criminal justice system by its nature is unequal, and the presiding officer has the duty to consider personal circumstances,” its chairperson Howard Dembovsky said.

“So the central problem [with this policy is] that if they give the same R1 000 fine to a student with no income … and a tycoon who earns R10 million a year, it wouldn’t be fair.”

He said enforcing this policy would simply see a lot of people standing trial for traffic offences, rather than act as a serious deterrent for traffic offenders. “Fines don’t have much deterrent value,” he said.

Dembovsky added that this policy could even see more bribery of traffic cops.

“If a cop gives someone a fine of R1 000, and [the motorist] knows they can’t make representations to reduce it, then they might be willing to ‘negotiate’ with the cop.”

It is also unclear whether this policy has been introduced indefinitely or just for the festive season, since the National Prosecuting Authority had not replied to questions late yesterday.

The KZN Department of Transport said it supported the move.

Spokesperson Nathi Sukazi said the department was in favour of any attempts to bring road transgressors to book.

He said, meanwhile, that the department would begin its festive season clampdown plan on December 2.

The plan will integrate police, traffic authorities, emergency services and municipalities.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  traffic fines

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