Cape Town - The Automobile Association has proposed the introduction of harsh restrictions on newly qualified drivers, among them a zero alcohol limit and a terrifying threat for his or her first "major" traffic offence.
Zero tolerance for novice drivers?
The AA - once regarded as the motorists' friend - has, it seems, come out firmly on the side of the traffic cops and instant injustice by saying newly qualified drivers should immediately be put on a sort of automotive probation for a year but under a set of driving laws (with pre-ordained penalties) that do not apply to other road-users.
AA spokesperson Gary Ronald should be ashamed of himself for believing that a "graduated" licence for new drivers would "encourage better driving habits and, utlimately, safer roads".
Here's how Ronald sees things...
Once such a "provisional" licence (something that does not exist in SA law) had been granted (as when you pass your driving test) it would be coded to include limitations such as zero alcohol before hitting the road and a ban on any "major traffic offence" - which is where the "terrifying threat" comes in...
Under Ronald's Law, should a driver commit a "listed offence" within the first driving year the penalty would be cancellation of the licence and the horror of having to start the whole bureaucratically soul-destroying qualificatiion process ALL OVER AGAIN.
Ronald's words were "a start the process from scratch" penalty; in other words, invoking state/municipal incompetence and inefficiency as a punishment.
No mention of legal process here; no mention of the magistrate having the power to hand down a different and perhaps lesser penalty; no mention of the newbie driver's right of appeal; no mention of the relative severity of the alleged traffic-law contravention.
Essentially, the newbie driver will be punished even before committing a crime; worse, EXPERIENCED drivers who should know better might make the same driving error but get merely a fine and not a driving ban.
However, on the unblemished anniversary of passing his/her driving test the harsher restrictions will fall away and full licence to do what he/she wants on the road granted.
Ronald said: "It should not be seen as a punishment but rather as an opportunity to entrench good driving behaviour. We've [also] spoken to the minister [of transport, Sibusiso Ndebele] regarding this and he is dead keen to implement this."
We believe Ronald, his bosses and Sibusiso 'Cut the speed limit and stop a million cars a month' Ndebele should apply their minds a little further and remember that the law should apply to all equally; that such Hitlerian threats can only breed a driving youth not learning to respect the law and the reasons for it but to fear it.
Sorry you guys, and Ronald in particular, but surely by now you must have realised that threats of big fines, driving bans and even jail have made little difference to South African driving habits. Only driver education can do that and so far no South African government has taken that simple fact seriously enough to spend money on it - and that includes the silly 'Drive Alive!' campaign.