If someone were to write a book about the world’s worst ideas, a few prominent South Africans would definitely feature.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters would be among the select few, for the nonsense she recently spouted following the release of the Easter road death toll statistics.
Colleague GG van Rooyen pondered in his opinion piece on whether the massive police presence on the roads over the holidays would make any difference. It didn’t.
The police impounded a few cars, arrested some drunk drivers and even placed car wrecks next to the highway as a shock tactic, but that wasn’t enough to save more than 280 people from dying on the roads. The previous year 198 people died, so it’s fairly obvious that this issue needs to be studied by a panel of experts to find a solution that will actually work.
But Minister Peters and her colleagues feel that they already have the problem sorted. The solution, it seems, is to introduce a system that would allow metro police officers to randomly stop motorists to retest their driving skills. According to Peters, this would help rid the roads of motorists who may have licences but who actually cannot drive properly.
Consider that proposal for a second. There are so many things wrong with it that I don’t know where to start in tearing it apart.
Let’s begin with the basic premise – the belief that such a system would expose motorists who have driving licences but who cannot drive.
I’m sorry, honourable minister, but that’s something you need to take up with the officials who are tasked with issuing driver’s licences. If a person cannot drive, how do they get permission to do it?
I’ll tell you why… it’s corruption. Perhaps the Transport Ministry’s time would be better served in getting rid of those corrupt officials at testing stations who issue licences without conducting proper tests or who, for a “small consideration”, give them to candidates who fail. This would negate the need to get rid of all the awful drivers the authorities have allowed onto the roads in the first place.
When I was old enough to get my licence, my family lived in Rustenburg. I went to the testing station early one morning to make an appointment, but unfortunately it was closed, because the corruption at that particular station had got to the level that it had to be closed down for a few months while the problem was sorted out. This was not a new experience for us. The station had been closed three times previously for the very same reason.
My second objection to your proposal, Minister, is that I find it scary that you would allow police officers so much power over the average motorist. I consider myself to be a law-abiding motorist, so I have nothing to fear from a traffic policeman. I don’t speed, my car is in tip-top shape and I don’t drink and drive. But if this proposed system is implemented, a police officer will be allowed to take my licence away if he doesn’t think I’m doing a good job.
I don’t have any doubts about my driving skills, but I do have serious reservations about the integrity of your police officers. Not all of them are corrupt, of course, but a 2011 report released by Corruption Watch estimated that about half of them were.
I’ve met a few nice ones over the years, but I was recently pulled over for driving at 112km/h in a 100km/h zone. I was at fault, so I was willing to accept the fine. But the police officer had other ideas. He kept on harping about how thirsty he was, but I asked him to write out the ticket so that I could be on my way. When he realised he wasn’t going to get anything out of me, he sent me off with a warning.
Then there was the case of a person getting a fine for a “deficient” reverse light. The policeman in question wrote out a fine after the motorist explained that her reverse light only came on when the car was moving backwards! I’ve seen a copy of the ticket and it really states something on the lines of, “The white light only comes on when the car is reversing”.
Can you imagine your chances if an officer of that calibre were given the authority to pass judgment on your driving prowess? I’d probably lose my licence, which would make me useless to a motoring magazine.
You see, Minister Peters, the main issue is that you have more than a few corrupt officers working for you. Giving them that much power over motorists would be a grave mistake.
Please scrap this ridiculous roadside testing scheme and come up with a plan to get rid of the corruption in your various departments. After that, instruct your senior officials to consult road safety experts in the motoring organisations, and together they could make a real attempt to cut the dreadful carnage on our roads.