Why does justice take so long?
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