More Traffic Officers
Adv Johan Jonck
Posted: Tue, 09 May 2006 07:51 | © Moneyweb Holdings Limited, 1997-2006

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Visible traffic enforcement is a key element to reducing road deaths in South Africa. At present the current staff levels of provincial and local traffic authorities are inadequate to effectively combat traffic offences. Not only should these numbers be addressed, but also the overall management of the enforcement function.

Information collected from various traffic authorities during the Arrive Alive campaign, Operation Juggernaut and the Provincial Patrol Car project, indicates that, on average, officers do law enforcement during only 25% of their available time, and that on average only 1,2 notices for traffic offences are issued per officer-hour of enforcement, and this includes speed enforcement by camera.

Speed enforcement is a highly debated topic – and a source of frustration to all those recipients of the dreaded traffic fine. It is often argued that speed enforcement is aimed at generating revenue and that the only visible traffic officers are those behind the cameras next to the road. An over emphasis on speed enforcement could be detrimental to road safety - as it would amount to neglecting many of the other threats to road safety.

Information collected by the Department of Transport during annual traffic offence surveys reveals that:

* In the order of 7% of buses and minibuses are fitted with at least one tyre that is smooth or damaged
* About 20% of trucks, including trailers, are fitted with at least one smooth or damaged tyre
* 13% of all vehicles have at least one brake light that is faulty and which contributes to the occurrence of head-rear crashes due to poor visibility
* In the order of 67% of drivers do not wear seat belts
* On the road surveys showed that in the order of 8% of drivers drive without a driving licence or have licence cards of which the validity expired
* 16% of drivers driving vehicles that require the driver to have a professional driving permit either cannot produce such permit or produce a permit that expired and was not renewed within the prescribed time

It is important for the safety of all motorists that these hazards be removed from the roads –and this is something that cannot be achieved by a few traffic officials behind the latest camera equipment. Effective visible enforcement through road-blocks - although not generating revenue, will provide considerable savings to the economy.

A recent study by the Medical College of Wisconsin has indicated that amongst patients presenting to an emergency department after a motor vehicle crash, unbelted occupants are more likely to require inpatient admission and to have sustained a severe injury to numerous body regions than are belted occupants. This presents an enormous challenge to health care systems and creates a significant societal and economic burden for a country.

According to the latest South African study by the CSIR the standardised unit cost for a fatality and payment made by the RAF was calculated at R 898 924; the unit cost for a serious injury was calculated at R761 614 and that of a slight injury R 82 306. These numbers provide ample justification for the mandated drafting and finalization of a National Road Traffic Law Enforcement Code by the RTMC.

It is envisaged that the National Road Traffic Law Enforcement Code will include amongst others the following objectives:

* To prevent the occurrence of road traffic offences through preventative patrol
* Improve personal interaction between traffic officials and the road using public
* Change the behavior of drivers; and
* Promote traffic law compliance in general and thereby reduce the number of road crashes and road rage incidents.

Traffic law enforcement officers have a key role in encouraging improved road user behavior. For this to succeed we need more effectively visible traffic officers…and fewer officers behind cameras!

Column by Adv Johan Jonck developer of the web site – A web site developed as a private initiative to support the Department of Transport in enhancing awareness of road safety.