With an average of 269 vehicle impounds a month and nearly 45 000 fines issued in the first quarter of this year, it is evident that enforcement alone will not get minibus taxi operators to toe the line.”
So says JP Smith, the Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security; and Social Services for the City of Cape Town.
He revealed last week that the City’s Traffic Services issued this number of fines to taxi operators in just over three months since the beginning of the year.
Smith said from 9 April officers had issued 44 937 fines to taxi drivers across the Metropole for a range of contraventions, including:
. moving violations: R9 560
. inlicensed driver: R8 695
. overloading: R6 143
. not wearing a seat belt: R4 211
. not displaying vehicle licence disc: R1 948
. unlicensed motor vehicle: R1 597
“These fines exclude speeding offences, so it really does give one a sense of the level of lawlessness that happens on our roads on a daily basis,” Smith said. “The statistics also debunk the perception that our enforcement agencies do not act against taxi operators.”
He said the traffic department has very limited resources that are stretched to capacity, given the demands on it.
“Furthermore, this does not even represent the enforcement done against other road users, who are by no means innocent,” Smith said, “so it certainly provides some perspective on what exactly we are up against.”
The Traffic Service has also impounded 2 426 public transport vehicles since July 2017, an average of 269 a month.
Of these, 71% of drivers did not have an operating licence, while the rest were operating in contravention of their operating licences, Smith said.
“Impoundment is a massive logistical exercise for us, as the vehicle has to be driven to the pound by a traffic officer and the necessary documentation completed, which is time-consuming,” he said. “When one considers that the vehicle reclaim rate among public transport operators is 98%, it does make impoundment seem like a revolving door, as the vehicle is back on the street virtually the same day or the next.”
Smith believes the City needs to hurt errant operators where it hurts, and that is permanent impoundment, but currently the law does not allow for this, and the City simply enforces the law, “we do not make it.”
He says the City has been working with the provincial government to expedite the conclusion of the new provincial Traffic legislation that would allow for more effective enforcement strategies, including impoundment of vehicles for traffic offences committed by public transport vehicles rather than issuing fines which are often evaded.
Smith says despite the enforcement efforts designed to create a safer city as outlined in the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan, many motorists simply refuse to pay their outstanding fines.
“Currently, the top 100 public transport ‘warrant dodgers’ have amassed more than 2 800 outstanding warrants amounting to R3 339 360,” he said.
“This is not surprising, but we are working hard to improve our warrant execution rates and holding motorists accountable for their actions.
“We have seen an increase in the number of people arrested and hopefully, in the medium- to longer term, we will start seeing this intervention having an impact on the behaviour of road users. In fact, we have already started seeing an increase in our traffic fine income, which is a sign that more people are paying their fines because they realise that there is a risk of being caught,” he concluded.