Minister announces new plan to reduce road accidents

Traffic officials plan to stop and search one million motorists a month in a bid to reduce road deaths, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Friday.

“Road accidents do not happen, they are caused and this plan will significantly reduce road deaths,” Ndebele said at the Traffic Safety Summit in Boksburg, Johannesburg, where he unveiled the new national traffic law enforcement plan.

Ndebele acknowledged that traffic law enforcement remained one of South Africa’s biggest problems.

The plan also includes licensing a million drivers a year.

“In some measure our department is the only one in the country that has the authority to legislate, prosecute and judge some traffic offenders.”

He questioned how the country could have 10-million vehicles, but only seven million licensed drivers.

“The logical question to ask is who then drives the other three million vehicles? We understand that a few people own two or more cars but the figures still remain a concern to us,” he said.

The new National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP), to be effected from October 2010 to October 2011, was aimed at addressing such anomalies, he said.

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences would introduce the demerit system. It was hoped this would create a culture of compliance among road users.

Drivers would gradually lose points based on offences committed.

“All drivers will start on 12 points, and recurring bad behaviour will result in the deduction of points and can potentially lead to drivers losing their drivers’ licences once the 12 points are exhausted.”

Good behaviour over a period would earn the driver points back.

He said the government intended to skill and re-skill drivers and road users because “this is very important”.

It was worrying that young people could not be employed because they did not have drivers’ licences, he said.

“We say we are many centuries removed from the Bible book of Genesis, but like Adam and Eve, we cannot ride a bicycle or drive a car. We want to be a leading country in Africa … on foot?”

Discussions have been held with the Department of Education to try to license as many young people as possible.

Every 17-year-old in South Africa must have a learner’s licence and every 18-year-old must have a driver’s licence.

Soon, at 18 years old, young people would at least have a matric certificate in one hand and a driver’s licence in the other, he said.

Traffic officers were critical in plans to reduce road accidents.

“You are often the first on the accident scene and during that critical hour you can save lives by administering first aid.”

As part of the NREP, the transport and health departments would provide the necessary skills to enable officers to help save lives wherever possible.

Through the eNatis system the transport department would also streamline vehicle registration services, “just as the Department of Home Affairs maps one’s life from birth to death”.

“We will delineate clearly the life cycle of a vehicle from birth to death, from the factory floor to the scrap yard,” Ndebele said.

Duplicate vehicle registration and cloning would be eliminated through eNatis.

South Africa had already agreed with its neighbouring countries to make available the use of eNatis to harmonise vehicle registration in the region.

“We are pleased that by the end of September 2010, vehicles travelling between South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Namibia will be on the eNatis system.”

Ndebele acknowledged the enforcement on its own was insufficient as a long-term solution. Permanent solutions were with close cooperation with all road users and communities.

“We are pleased to announce that the Road Accident Fund is rolling out help centres in health centres around the country to help survivors, beneficiaries and the injured with post-accident social insurance claims.”

As part of the summit, the department was embarking on a “Make Our Roads Safe” signature campaign that would collect a million signatures committing to safer roads in the country. — Sapa

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