Why does jus­tice take so long?

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Michele Clarke

EV­ERY year, South Africans are in­formed about the high num­ber of deaths on our roads over the fes­tive pe­riod. How­ever, the num­ber of con­vic­tions of killers on our roads aren’t pub­lished in the same fash­ion as the an­nounce­ment of the death tally.

And yes, I re­fer to reck­less, drunk driv­ers as killers. These in­di­vid­u­als know­ingly place the lives of oth­ers at se­vere risk when they make the de­ci­sion to get be­hind the wheel of a mo­torised ve­hi­cle.

There is very lit­tle jus­tice and clo­sure for the fam­i­lies of loved ones killed on our roads by drunk or reck­less driv­ers.

While the num­ber of ar­rests, road blocks, and fines is­sued dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son is wel­com­ing, the out­come of said ar­rests takes many months – even years – to process.

The ever-in­creas­ing back­log on our Na­tional Health Lab­o­ra­tory Ser­vice (NHLS) to process blood sam­ples taken from drunk driv­ers is wor­ry­ing, as it may take years be­fore driv­ers are con­victed.

We con­tinue to ar­rest with lim­ited con­vic­tions. There are very lit­tle con­se­quences for drunk driv­ing, and so reck­less driv­ers con­tinue to drink and drive, speak on their cell phones and place other’s lives at risk.

Gaut­eng has one of the high­est num­bers of drunk driv­ing ar­rests, reck­less driv­ing charges, and cell phone con­fis­ca­tions in the coun­try.

If we dis­sect the num­ber of ar­rests made to the num­ber of in­no­cent peo­ple killed on our roads yearly, the fig­ures are warped. Ev­ery year, I pose a ques­tion in the Gaut­eng Pro­vin­cial Leg­is­la­ture to ob­tain the amount of con­vic­tions to ar­rests made.

Most re­cently I have dis­cov­ered that there are out­stand­ing cases of drunk driv­ing dat­ing as far back as 2009.

As of Novem­ber 2016, 1 047 cases of drunk driv­ing were still un­re­solved. 2014 has a back­log of 223 cases out­stand­ing, 2015 looks even bleaker with 596 cases yet to be pro­cessed. In 2016 there were 237 cases, with these fig­ures set to in­crease once the fes­tive pe­riod is taken into ac­count.

What our coun­try needs is stronger en­force­ment of road traf­fic rules us­ing tech­niques such as speed over dis­tance, in­creased stop and search, more fo­cus on mov­ing vi­o­la­tions and drunk driv­ing, and in­creased ca­pac­i­ta­tion of the NHLS to en­sure tox­i­col­ogy re­ports are ex­pe­dited – lead­ing to the quick prose­cu­tion and con­vic­tion of drunk driv­ers.

Ev­ery year the Gaut­eng Traf­fic De­part­ment sets tar­gets to re­duce road fa­tal­i­ties by 10% per an­num. These tar­gets are never achieved. In­stead, road traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties in­crease by more than 10% year on year. Ac­cord­ing to the road traf­fic statis­tics most fa­tal ac­ci­dents oc­cur over week­ends from Fri­day to Mon­day morn­ings be­tween 6pm and 2am.

Al­co­hol abuse, reck­less and neg­li­gent driv­ing, mo­torists col­lid­ing with pedes­tri­ans not wear­ing vis­i­ble cloth­ing are some of the ma­jor con­trib­u­tory fac­tors lead­ing to in­creased road fa­tal­i­ties.

Pro­vin­cial traf­fic of­fi­cers are em­ployed in terms of the Pub­lic Ser­vice Act and work 40 hours a week from Mon­day to Fri­day from 6am to 10pm. Their pro­fes­sion has not been de­clared an es­sen­tial ser­vice in terms of labour leg­is­la­tion. This has led to pro­vin­cial traf­fic of­fi­cers re­fus­ing to work in shifts to en­sure a 24 hour pres­ence ev­ery day, lead­ing to over­time pay, plac­ing a ma­jor strain on the de­part­ment’s bud­get.

It is im­per­a­tive that the pro­vin­cial traf­fic pro­fes­sion is de­clared an es­sen­tial ser­vice. Traf­fic law en­force­ment needs to take place 24 hours a day.

Road safety is a shared responsibility. Ev­ery per­son who uses the roads has an obli­ga­tion to act safely and in­ter­nalise sound road safety norms and val­ues. This will be greatly aided if the Gaut­eng De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity Safety gets its house in or­der and en­cour­ages other gov­ern­ment stake­hold­ers to im­ple­ment real, life-sav­ing ini­tia­tives.

Road traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties in­crease by more than 10% year on year.

DA Gaut­eng spokesper­son on Com­mu­nity Safety

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