Government is reportedly in the advanced stage of discussions to make drunk driving a Schedule Five Offence. The news broke, on Monday, that they were in advanced deliberations of classifying drinking and driving as a serious crime. The dialogue has come after it was considered equating drunk driving to rape or murder. This week, however, the discussion was taken further and included the consequence of driving under the influence.
The discussion has taken place between the Department of Justice and the South African Traffic Department. Both are seeming to agree to increase the punishment to a mandatory two-year jail term without bail.
Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said that the introduction of minimum sentences for negligent and reckless driving was part of the department’s long-term strategy to curb road casualties.
“We are at an advanced stage in the engagements with the Department of Justice with the minimum sentences for the offences of drunk driving and negligent driving, offences to be moved from [a] schedule three to schedule five offence to ensure that those who negligently cause crashes… do not get bail… and spend time behind bars,” said Maswanganyi.
Harsh Traffic Regulations Are Looming
This is merely one of the many new regulations that are being proposed to curb deaths on South African roads. It is among several new proposals in the amendment to the National Road Traffic Regulations. The amendments, set to come into law in May, include the banning of passengers being transported in the loading bay of light delivery vehicles.
The discussions have come just after the Easter break that saw road deaths rise dramatically since 2016. A shocking 51% increase in deaths was recorded over the Easter break. The number, now sitting at 235, is up from 156 in 2016.
Curbing Bad Driving Behaviour
The department is currently taking various ideas into consideration to alter driving behaviour in the country. They state that it is due to pure negligence and human error that the death toll has risen to the current levels.
The Minister stated that coach-bus, trucking, and logistics companies would all come under fire in future amendments. The department wants to move toward clamping down on companies that leave their drivers to face prosecution when they themselves failed to maintain their own vehicles.
Scheduled Five Offences
Other Schedule Five Offences include murder, attempted murder, treason, rape, corruption, extortion, and fraud. Many of these offences carry an average of 15-year jail terms, if the defendant is found guilty.
The public is seemingly agreeing with the institution of the harsher penalties. Many are, however, questioning when the taxi industry will be under scrutiny. The discussions have, once again, brought to light the fact that the industry is currently severely unregulated. Calls for this to be altered has come to light with these discussions. This, together with the breaking news of 20 children being killed when a taxi collided with a truck near Bronkhorstspruit, has brought taxis into question.
Maswanganyi said the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill, as well as adjustments to the Electronic National Administration Traffic Information System, would also assist in deterring poor road behaviour by motorists.
We, however, question, is this enough?