Many traf­fic fines are wide of the mark

Pay now, ar­gue later is the rule

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CAPAZORIO

ACROSS the coun­try, mo­torists have been get­ting fines that have left them baf­fled, an­gry or just plain con­fused.

Hel­moed Römer Heit­man, a de­fence an­a­lyst with the pres­ti­gious Jane’s De­fence Weekly, is still try­ing to make sense of a speed­ing fine is­sued by the traf­fic au­thor­i­ties in Bredas­dorp well over a year ago.

Though Heit­man sub­se­quently paid the R200 fine – he says the money is not the point, it is about prin­ci­ple.

The traf­fic au­thor­i­ties have yet to ex­plain how their cam­eras man­aged to record his pass­ing at a time that by his cal­cu­la­tions, he could not pos­si­bly have been there.

Heit­man be­lieves that ei­ther the cam­era’s time stamp is faulty or the im­age of his car was recorded by a cam­era set up in a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion to the one spec­i­fied in terms of the fine.

Heit­man said he was at the Over­berg Test Range on the day in ques­tion, and the time stamp recorded on his exit from the range was 4.04pm.

“There are a dozen or more wit­nesses to that fact, as I was trav­el­ling in Over­berg Test Range’s bus among col­leagues,” he said. He said he had then spent sev­eral min­utes say­ing good­bye to col­leagues and had prob­a­bly left the area at 4.20pm.

“I do not be­lieve that I could have been on the other side of Bredas­dorp (around 40km away) or even near Bredas­dorp six min­utes later” he said.

Heit­man told Week­end Ar­gus he has been try­ing to get to the bot­tom of the co­nun­drum for months – to no avail. He said even ap­proaches from his lawyer have gone unan­swered.

Heit­man said he was rapidly los­ing pa­tience with what he de­scribed as “ex­tor­tion”.

Even when the fines were un­jus­ti­fied he said, the pres­sure was on the driver to pay up, as the only al­ter­na­tive was hugely ex­pen­sive le­gal action.

To make mat­ters worse, the ante is up with moves to in­tro­duce a “points sys­tem” whereby points are added each time a driver is caught for a trans­gres­sion.

Once 12 points have been ac­cu­mu­lated, there is a three­month sus­pen­sion of the driver’s li­cence for ev­ery point there­after (ie at 13 points the li­cence is sus­pended for three months, at 14, it is sus­pended for six months.)

This will mean that, un­less you prove your in­no­cence, Heit­man said “the threat is they can take your driver’s li­cence away”.

Heit­man’s con­cer ns are shared by many. The Jus­tice Project of South Africa this year helped a Cape Town scooter driver who was “caught” go­ing 127km/h in a 60km/h zone.

The pic­ture sup­plied with the fine was taken from the front – a po­si­tion from which the side-fit­ted regis­tra­tion-plates car­ried by mo­tor­cy­cles are not vis­i­ble at all. The av­er­age scooter reaches a top speed of around 100km/h.

Ear­lier this year, a Jo­han­nes­burg mo­torist driv­ing a Geely, a small car man­u­fac­tured in China, is al­leged to have reached speeds in ex­cess of 800km/h if the cam­eras are to be be­lieved.

Fran­cisca Al Halaseh re­ceived two fines for cam­eras posted 4.6 km apart, but the time stamps reg­is­tered only 19 sec­onds apart.

If Al Halaseh had man­aged to rev her en­gine to over 800km/h, she may have been able to fool the cam­eras in much the same way that UK motoring show Top Gear beat the cam­eras by trav­el­ling at a com­par­a­tively leisurely 270km/h.

The web­site greedfines.co.za, set up by the Jus­tice Project of South Africa helps peo­ple to fight un­law­ful fines.

The site says the Jus­tice Project cur­rently has a “huge back­log” of al­legedly fraud­u­lent fines – the high­est num­ber is from the Jo­han­nes­burg area.

Among the prob­lems recorded on the greed fines site are cases where fines were al­legedly handed out though traf­fic of­fi­cers had al­legedly failed to se­cure per­mits to be op­er­at­ing in the area in the first place, where the of­fi­cers weren’t cor­rectly cer­ti­fied or the cam­eras had not re­cently been checked.

In a num­ber of cases, hun­dreds of Jo­han­nes­burg mo­torists trav­el­ling on the N12E re­ceived fines for the N1. The N12E branches from the N1 and there is a speed limit dif­fer­ence of 20km/h in this area.

Other mo­torists have been caught speed­ing along in ve­hi­cles they don’t even own, like the man whose Har­ley-David­son mo­tor­bike mirac­u­lously be­came a BMW mo­tor­car when his fine ar­rived.

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