Announcements/reports on new traffic regulations are misleading – JPSA

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has noted various reports which have apparently arisen out of statements made by representatives and the spokesperson for the Department of Transport regarding numerous amendments and/or insertions in the National Road Traffic Regulations, only two of which have been promulgated.

For some reason which is not immediately apparent to us, the Department of Transport appears to have chosen to irresponsibly conflate actual promulgated amendments with draft amendments and this merely has the effect of spreading misinformation and confusing the public.

On 11 November 2016, the Minister of Transport promulgated amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations in Government Gazette 40420 wherein Regulations 250 and 293 were amended. Since then, no other amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations have been promulgated.

The amendment of Regulation 250 of the National Road Traffic Regulations, instead of enhancing road safety, has relaxed the previous total prohibition which prescribed that “no person shall on a public road carry any person for reward in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle” by amending it to “no person shall on a public road convey school children in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward.

Subregulation (2) now reads as follows:

“No person shall convey any other person in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward: Provided that the provisions of this subregulation shall not apply in respect of a vehicle which complies with the provisions of the NLTA”.

Instead of bolstering the prohibition of persons on the back of bakkies and other goods vehicles for reward, this insertion has actually “legalised” the transportation of any and all other persons in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward, provided that the transport operator applies to and pays the Department of Transport for a permit to do so.

The amendments to Regulation 250 come into effect on 11 May 2017, NOT “1 May 2017” as has been widely reported.

The amendment of Regulation 250 imposes no prohibition whatsoever on the conveyance of any person (school children not excluded) in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle where no fee is charged therefor. Furthermore there is no prescript regarding the maximum number of persons who may be conveyed in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle contained in this amendment.

Even if there were, the question must arise as to just how effective limiting the number of persons conveyed in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle to 5 would be in preventing such persons from becoming human missiles and/or mitigate the possibility of their serious injury or death if/when a bakkie or other goods vehicle crashes.

Insofar as the vehicle class speed limit of 100km/h for goods vehicles with a GVM/GCM of more than 3,500kg but less than 9,000kg goes, the insertion of subparagraphs (aa) and (bb) into Regulation 293(iv) which gave effect to this specific vehicle class speed limit came into immediate effect on 11 November 2016.

According to a BusinessTech report, Transport spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi made further claims that the following additional amendments are on the cards for later this year, however he apparently added that these draft amendments will again be published for public comment before they are:

·         Drivers will have to undergo a practical re-evaluation when renewing a licence;

·         A complete review and revamp of the current K53 test;

·         Speed limits to be reduced from 60km/h to 40km/h in urban areas, from 100 to 80km/h in rural areas and from 120 to 100km/h on freeways running through a residential area;

·         Goods vehicles above 9,000kg GVM to be banned from public roads during peak travelling times.

If/when these and/or any other draft amendments are published for comment, JPSA will be sure to make the appropriate submissions.

JPSA is in full agreement with the Automobile Association of South Africa regarding its assertions that “the inefficiency of law enforcement agencies to enforce effectively the existing laws relating to speed limits” is at the heart of speeding offences, but we must add that the improper enforcement of speed limits is far from the only problem we face on our roads.

Traffic law enforcement in South Africa is not practiced consistently, ethically and in the interests of road safety. Instead there is more than ample evidence that it focusses primarily on revenue generation. Until this changes, no amount of new laws, misinformation on what laws do actually exist and threats of extended incarceration without bail are going to have any effect on the situation.