ACTION NEEDED: 'God forbid that they should identify the real problems,' the Justice Project South Africa pulls no punches as it responds to SA's horrendous festive season road-death toll. Image: iStock
Gauteng - The increase in road deaths over the 2016/17 festive period is cause for great concern and points to the lack of a proper road safety strategy to deal with the carnage.
Road fatality statistics released by SA transport minister Dipuo Peters reveal that 1714 people have been killed on South African roads from December 1, 2016 to January 9, 2017.
Over the same period in 2015/16, 1629 people died on the country’s roads, this translates to a 4% increase.
Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) weighs in on the discussion and raises a number of very valid points:
Whilst Justice Project South Africa is not surprised that the 2016/17 festive season has produced an additional 5% increase in immediate road deaths, over and above the 15% increase experienced last year, we are deeply saddened at the unnecessary human suffering which has inflicted on the affected families.
This means that in just two years, road deaths over the festive season have increased by more than one fifth (around 21%) and this is the exact opposite of the objective of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety to reduce road deaths 50% by 2020, an initiative to which SA is signatory and has been since 2012.
At this rate, South Africa will most probably double, rather than halve the road deaths from their 2011 levels.
Not taking responsibility
Beneath a thin veneer of the usual “shock” and “sadness” at these statistics lies an environment of a total absence of accountability on the part of the authorities. Instead, the Minister of Transport, RTMC and authorities keep harping on about how everyone and everything other than themselves and their own failures to meet their mandate is responsible.
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As has become the habit of the Minister, RTMC, RTIA and other agencies, threats are again being levelled against motorists. We have now been told that the points-demerit system will be rolled out “before the end of 2017”. Simultaneously, we are again being told that the Department of Transport is working hard to reschedule “drunk driving” to a Schedule 5 offence, ostensibly so that a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison can come into being.
READ: Festive season road deaths: 'There's been no impact on the death toll'
Well, forgive us for being the ones who come along and rain on this particular parade, but have we not consistently been told that the points-demerit system will be rolled out each and every year since 2009? Was it not last year that we were promised that AARTO would be rolled out nationwide in the 2016/17 financial year?
Too many questions
As for the concept of rescheduling “drunk driving”, reckless or negligent driving and excessive speed to a Schedule offences under the Criminal Procedure Act, just why is it that Section 89 of the National Road Traffic Act, which deals with offences and penalties does not so much as separately contemplate driving under the influence of alcohol and/or excessive speed like it does with reckless or negligent driving?
Why is it that the Department of Transport wants to tamper with legislation which falls under the Department of Justice when its own legislation is not in order?
Justice Project South Africa knows why. All of those involved in road traffic law and its enforcement have become way too accustomed to pointing fingers and identifying problems anywhere and everywhere but within their own structures. It’s called buck-passing and these officials are the supreme masters of this practice.
READ: Grim start to 2017 - 41 killed in 8 days on WCape's roads
God forbid that they should identify the real problems and admit that they have failed in their mandates and God forbid that they should listen to any sound reasoning and make the necessary changes. Above all, God forbid that any of the “seat warmers” and “hot air blowers” who reside within the structures of the Department of Transport and law enforcement agencies should be held accountable for their actions, or more precisely, for their incompetence.
Protection for law-abiding drivers
Motorists have an undeniable responsibility to themselves and others to drive defensively, courteously and within the framework of the law, but those of us who actually do so also have the undeniable right to be afforded proper protection from those who don’t – not just during the festive season, but all year round.
Despite the fact that Justice Project South Africa have been harping on about exactly the same thing for as long as we can remember now - the need for visible, ethical and corruption-free traffic law enforcement to be practiced 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days of the year, within the framework of the law - this simply hasn’t happened.
READ: 682 speedsters, more than R400k in fines... WCape's shock New Year's weekend stats
Until such time as traffic law and its enforcement becomes about road safety and not about generating revenue, nothing at all will help and we will keep engaging in the same old rhetoric the authorities have become famous for. Seeking to deny “drunk drivers” and others bail and imprison them until such time as their trial has been concluded, as is being asserted by the Minister and the RTMC is not the answer to the problem and will most certainly create more problems than it solves.