Angry motorists lament fines for cloned cars
August 11 2006 at 04:50AM
By Amelia Naidoo
Several readers have come forward with accounts of traffic fines they received for offences they had not committed following the publication in Thursday's Mercury of a story on vehicle cloning.
Moore Road resident Merle McGuicken's woes began about a year ago, when she received a ticket for a speeding offence committed in Colesberg in the Northern Cape.
Since then, she has received four more speeding fines for a Volkswagen bakkie almost identical to hers that was caught on camera in Colesberg, Cape Town and George.
McGuicken contacted the Umsobomvu, Cape Town and George Traffic departments, explaining that the vehicle in question was not hers, but a clone. She had informed the departments of the differences between the vehicles, but officials had refused to investigate the matter.
According to her, the bakkie caught on camera had a different canopy and wheel trim. It was also a later model.
She had also informed the traffic departments that her vehicle had never left Durban as it was used for her carpet-cleaning business.
She had requested that they contact the Durban Metro Police for verification but this had not been done, she said.
McGuicken now has to appear in court for the mounting traffic fines that she has refused to pay.
The Cape Town Metropolitan Police Department said in a letter that McGuicken's circumstances "do not justify a recommendation for the charge to be withdrawn".
Durban North resident Pam Taylor's experience occurred in 2002, when she tried to sell her car privately.
A man, claiming to be an Absa employee and interested in the car, had contacted her, saying he had needed the car's details. According to Taylor, the man went to the Winklespruit Licensing Department and made copies of the car's documents. Then he had disappeared without buying the vehicle.
Taylor said she had been suspicious and had called Absa, who said that the employee she mentioned did not exist.
Two months later, Taylor had begun receiving traffic fines for offences committed on the N2 and in Boksburg with a vehicle identical to hers. Taylor had reported this to the police, who had cancelled the fines.
However, she later experienced problems when she tried to trade her car in as it was already registered elsewhere. She eventually sold it, but warned that it was risky to sell cars privately.
Chairman of the National Vehicle Testing Association Wally Cracknell said the technology to combat cloning was available immediately but lacked government support.
Cracknell said the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had developed the technology.
He said an electronic device that contained a barcode with all the details of a vehicle could be located on the windscreen or hidden inside the car. He said it had "an enormous range" and would prevent illegal activities such as theft, speeding and vehicle cloning, among others.
Kobus Labuschagne, of the CSIR's Built Environment Department, however, said that the electronic chip was "old technology but was being repackaged for the purpose of vehicle identification".
He said the device was not fully developed and was not being considered by government for use in speed prosecution. He said there were many limitations on the device that needed to be addressed.
o This article was originally published on page 3 of The Mercury on August 11, 2006