A plan to compel motorists to take practical tests and answer sets of as yet undetermined questions before renewing their driving licences is creating an uproar. Long queues and seemingly overwhelmed and inept licensing centre staff already frustrate motorists. The latest move — part of new draft regulations aimed at stopping road carnage — has been slammed by advocacy groups, who label it impractical and say it does not address the root cause of road deaths — corruption.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” said Justice Project chairman Howard Dembovsky. The draft regulation — up for public discussion — was published in the Government Gazette on Monday. It proposes:
-Reducing the general speed limit in urban areas to 40km/h, to 80km/h on roads other than freeways outside urban areas, and 100km/h on freeways passing through residential areas;
-Ensuring workers are safely transported in the back of properly enclosed goods vehicles and limiting their numbers; and
-Outlawing paid transportation of children to school on bakkies;
-Banning goods vehicles over 9 tons on urban roads between 6am and 9am, and 5pm and 8pm.
Transport Department spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso said “extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures”.
“Our interventions are a response to a dire situation, where we are seeing crashes with drivers never trained to drive.” He said: “It’s our hope these amendments will address current challenges and close loopholes, especially around corruption. “Motorists will be practically tested. We are looking at various options, from establishing driving academies, where people receive advanced-driving lessons, to having traffic inspectors examine motorists through practical driving tests at driver testing stations.”
The regulations were part of an overhaul of the Road Traffic Act. Rikhotso said the safe transportation of pupils had long been a concern and new norms and standards would have to be adhered to. Banning of heavy vehicles during peak hours was to reduce congestion and danger to other motorists. Critics question the minister’s motives, warning of the economic impact especially of the restrictions on trucks.
Patrick O’Leary, editor of Fleetwatch magazine, said the move would bring the economy to its knees: “The loss of six hours of trucking productivity out of the day will hurt the GDP. “The impact will be felt all down the supply chain as far as Japan, leading to delays of containers coming into and out of the country.” The most impractical thing will be where trucks park during the “ban times”. O’Leary said thousands of trucks travelled daily on the N3. “Where do you park these trucks? Imagine the congestion around cities when trucks start entering cities all at once.”
He warned the impact would see food and fuel prices skyrocketing. “Entire delivery schedules will need to be rescheduled. Negotiations over night shifts will have to be entered into with unions.” The Automobile Association said it was studying the draft regulations. Dembovsky said of the regulations for licence renewals: “The department must first fix what is broken — corruption.”
He said school lift club regulations would cause huge problems, especially in remote areas, where most vehicles cannot go. “Is the Department trying to tell parents how to get their children to school? Are they saying parents don’t love their children because they organise transport instead of forcing them to walk?”