KwaZulu-Natal transport boss, Sibusiso Gumbi, has voiced concern over the “lenient” punishment meted out to motorists who violate traffic laws, saying this might be contributing to the carnage on the province’s roads.
Gumbi, transport’s head of department, was speaking to the Daily News on the sidelines of a memorial service yesterday for 12 people, including an unborn child, killed in a New Year’s Day collision involving a packed VW Amarok bakkie and a minibus taxi in Ramsgate.
“The laws are lenient in terms of punishment (for the motorist),” he said.
“In December a motorist was caught doing 220km/h on the highway, and later he was released for a fine of a few thousand rand. Is that punitive enough?”
Gumbi would not elaborate on why the sentences for road offences were so “lenient”, saying it was for the National Prosecuting Authority to comment.
But he did say that his office was encouraged by amendments that the national Department of Transport was considering making to the Road Traffic Act to curb road deaths.
Gumbi said it was important to look at the dynamics of the Ramsgate accident, explaining that the bakkie was carrying about 11 people.
A spokesman for the KZN department, Kwanele Ncalane, said a forensic investigation had ascertained that one of the vehicles had attempted to overtake another vehicle before they collided head-on.
Police and the Road Traffic Inspectorate are still gathering statements from survivors, some of whom are still unable to speak due to their injuries.
Asked what the department would be doing this year to curb road deaths in the province, Gumbi said: “We intend to strengthen our partnership with stakeholders in the sector - these are the taxis and buses - where there is always potential for the impact of accidents to be felt because many people can die.”
But Gumbi stressed that it all started with the motorists exercising care on the road.
“The solution to road safety is when everybody starts to talk about road safety - when everybody abides by the laws of the road - to spread the message,” he said.
“The message is clear, road accidents do not happen by themselves; the drivers contribute to them. We need to go back to basics.
“This (last major) accident happened in Ramsgate, we say it must not happen again to anyone, we need to take a decision to say we will obey the laws of the road,” Gumbi said.
“Our drivers speed, they drive drunk, people do not wear seatbelts. These are all things that we are told when we apply for licences that we cannot do.”
Gumbi said the investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing, but speed could not be ruled out as a factor.
“But speed is not the only factor. Drivers, we need you to speak to your conscience. When you are behind the wheel you are like a person carrying a bomb; or a doctor - with just one mistake, you can cause people to die,” he said. - Daily News