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Traffic demerit system
« on: February 08, 2010, 12:15:02 pm »
February 6, 2010
By Sameer Naik

In two months South Africans will hit the road again for the long Easter weekend but the much-anticipated traffic demerit system, which is tipped to curb driving and driver violations, has been delayed once again.

Not only is the man in charge of it all under investigation but officials simply don't have a clue when the system will be implemented.

Although transport minister S'bu Ndebele has admitted to problems with The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto), he has downplayed any concerns, saying the issues were "minor" and would be resolved before the end of 2010Two-year pilot project but problems still not ironed out.

But since the pilot project was introduced in Tshwane in 2008 department officials have still not managed to iron out teething problems.

Road Traffic Management Corporation CEO Ranthoko Rakgoale said: "We have to ensure that all the minor problems that we encountered while running the pilot system are verified, so that the system runs 100 percent smoothly before we launch it."

And apart from ironing out problems with Aarto, Rakgoale has another problem on his hands.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance called for his suspension pending a full investigation into mismanagement and lavish spending at the RTMC.

The party's transport spokesperson, Stuart Farrow, said it would be approaching the Public Protector to launch an investigation after receiving a copy of a report by auditors Deloitte and Touche, whom Rakgoale paid R13Democratic alliance wants RTMC boss suspended.3 million in 2009 for work done on cleaning up the RTMC's finances.

The firm was contracted for seven months at a cost of R1.7m a month.

The CEO did not approach his finance committee for authorisation as the cost had been expected to fall below the limit of R10m. The corporation's board had also raised the salaries of the executives by 389 percent from R647 000 to R3.1m.

With the findings of the audit report it was necessary for Ndebele to launch an investigation into Rakgoale, the DA said.

Ndebele's spokesman Logan Maistry said Ndebele had referred the matter to the RTMC board, but Rakgoale had not been suspended.

This week Rakgoale sang Aarto's praises, saying he believed the system would have a major impact on lowering road deaths.

'NOW IT'S NOT ONLY A FINE'

"With the demerit points leading to the suspension and cancellation of a driver's licence, people will be much more careful.

"Now its not only about paying a fine, one will have points," he said.

He added that the present system of dealing with traffic violations was inadequate as it had not addressed the root causes of unlawful behaviour on the road.

"Cases are known to be on the court roll for long periods, in some instances up to two years, resulting in an untenable situation of justice long delayed being justice denied," he said.

Johannesburg Metro police spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane said the pilot project in Johannesburg had been gaining momentum since its launch and, once fully implemented, she expected it to be effective.

'PEOPLE WILL CHANGE HABITS

"I believe the Aarto system will work effectively because it will force drivers to change the way they drive on the roads because they will know that they could lose their licence," said Mamonyane.

"Some of us are dependant on our licence because that's the way we get to work every day. If we lose it we will be useless, so I believe people will change their driving habits,"he added.

"Offences such as drinking and driving or reckless and negligent driving could cost a driver many points, so people will think before they get behind the wheel," she said.

Rob Handfield-Jones, managing directory of driving.co.za, said the IT and communications infrastructure would play a very important role in the Aarto system.

"It depends on the ability of the IT and communications infrastructure, especially in the smaller municipalities. The capacity of the Post Office to deliver those fines by registered mail is a big question mark," he said.

2055 OFFENCES LISTED

Asked whether the system would reduce road deaths, Handfield-Jones said not until the enforcement basis for South African road safety moved away from "speed kills".

"There are 2055 offences which can be committed under Aarto. A single one, speed, accounts for the huge majority of prosecutions - more than 98 percent, by my calculations. And since you can be killed at almost any speed above walking pace, speed control is not an effective road safety strategy," said Handfield-Jones.

He added that Aarto would only reduce road deaths when moving violations become the key driver of enforcement.

"If a guy is caught a few times doing 131 in a 120 zone and loses his licence, there is no gain for road safety, especially when half of all drivers killed in crashes are drunk. But drink-driving constitutes less than one percent of all enforcement notices issued," he said.

When the demerit system is finally introduced, drivers will be allocated 12 points. Should they lose all 12 within one year, their licence will be suspended.

After three suspensions, particularly negligent, reckless or unfortunate drivers will have licences cancelled and will be fined.

But a penalty-free year (which means no transgressions) will earn drivers an additional 12 points and a bonus point.

But Handfield-Jones is not convinced, saying drivers will only be as careful as they think the government will let them be. "Since the average driver knows he can get away with almost anything except exceeding the speed limit, I doubt there will be much change in attitude until enforcement starts shifting to the offences that actually cause crashes," said Handfield-Jones. - Saturday Star
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