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Blue light recklessness to continue

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IOL mot feb1  blue light brigade

INLSA

Stock picture by Jeffrey Abrahams

Drivers of vehicles equipped with blue lights can drive as recklessly as they please and little is being done to change this.

Amendments to the National Road Traffic Act, which outlines the use of blue lights by emergency personnel, were gazetted in July, but have not yet been presented to Parliament.

Section 58 of the act states that no one may exceed the speed limit or disregard road signs, unless they are employed by the SAPS, traffic police or emergency services.

While the amendments now do restrict such services “provided that he or she shall drive the vehicle concerned with due regard to the safety of other traffic”, this does little to stop these drivers from behaving recklessly on the road.

Several high-profile blue-light cases have been reported, including that of Thomas Ferreira, who was left brain-damaged after such a vehicle knocked him off of his motorbike in November 2011.

BATS OUT OF HELL

Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the Justice Project SA (JPSA), said: “They seem to be under the impression that they can switch on their lights and drive like a bat out of hell. That’s not what the law says.

The JPSA has been calling for speed restrictions for blue-light cars.

Dembovsky said blue-light cars should not exceed the speed limit by more than 30km/h on urban roads, 40km/h on freeways, and 15km/h when going through red lights or stop streets.

He also said a clause should be included that fully details that the use of these cars can only be used in an emergency, although the word “emergency” was likely be abused.

The ministry of police said it was not in its power to change the law regarding blue-light vehicles.

“If a (traffic) light shows green, we can’t change it to orange,” said spokesman Zweli Mnisi. -The Star


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