Many traffic fines are wide of the mark
Pay now, argue later is the rule
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.