and Aziz Hartley
A proposal by the national Department of Transport to change the driving licence system so that learner drivers will wait up to four years before getting their licences has been welcomed by the Automobile Association but slammed by business in the Western Cape.
The Cape Chamber of Commerce described the proposal as “ridiculous” and an “excuse” for poor administration.
The chamber’s president, Michael Bagraim, said yesterday the department would do better to improve the current system to make the process of obtaining a driving licence quicker.
Bagraim accused the department of making excuses for “its poor administration” and argued that it would not prevent people from buying illegal licences.
The proposal would require applicants to wait up to four years before obtaining their driving licences and is aimed at reducing road accidents.
“We want to create a new crop of drivers,” said Transport Department spokesman Logan Maistry yesterday. The new plan would allow 16-year-olds to apply for a learner driver’s licence, in terms of which they could drive accompanied by a fully licensed driver at a maximum speed of 80km/h. They would be recognised by a black ‘L’ sign with a yellow background on the rear windscreen. Learners would have to log at least 120 hours of driving, including 24 of driving at night.
In the second year they would apply for a P1 licence, allowing them to drive alone and at a limit of 90km/h. They would have to display a red ‘L’ sign with a white background.
A P2 licence would be granted in the third year after a computerised hazard perception test. Learners would be recognised by a green ‘L’ sign and would be allowed to drive at a maximum speed of 100km/h.
A full licence would be issued only in the fourth year, after a computerised test.
Maistry said the graduated licence scheme was applied in countries such as Australia and had contributed to the reduction of road accidents.
Automobile Association spokesman Gary Ronald said the association welcomed the proposal but would prefer to see licences granted after four years without a test.
The AA would like to see “a provisional licence in effect for two to three years”, he said.
He said the measures would help avoid road deaths.
However, Bagraim said the proposal was counter to the need to reduce unemployment. Australia’s unemployment rate was not as high as South Africa’s, and administration was better.
Johan Schroner, an accredited K53 book author, said for jobseekers to wait four years before applying for jobs in a market which increasingly required an applicant to have a licence would slow the economy down.
He estimated that the department would have to invest millions to administer the proposal.