The new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill, that’s Aarto to you and me, has already got the cat among the pigeons - and it was only passed by Parliament on Tuesday.
The DA is already claiming it’s unconstitutional but there’s no doubt the sphincters of the prodigals are tightening at the prospect of a British-type demerits system where breaking laws doesn’t just mean paying fines, but also getting points docked off your licence.
Once you hit the magical number of 12, your licence gets suspended for three months. Do it three times and it gets destroyed.
Or does it? The Aarto amendment bill has been in the pipeline for years, it’s amazing it’s finally been passed. It will be amazing if it ever gets implemented.
I’m not being too cynical I hope, but current examples don’t inspire much hope.
Let’s look at e-tolls. All they have managed has been to spawn the greatest single ecumenical act of public disobedience since, perhaps, Nkandla and the Guptas.
No one pays their e-toll accounts, despite the amnesties and the discounts. Some people registered and then chose not to pay. Nothing’s happened to them, even though Sanral knows where they live and can - and should - send them their bills.
What about licences? How many people drive around with expired licences, unwilling to go through the schlepp of queueing for a day to test their eyes, have their fingerprints taken again, pay for a temporary licence and then queue to pick it up in six weeks’ time?
How many people bother to get a licence in the first place? How many buy theirs?
These aren’t idle questions from the lap of pampered privilege: One of my kids was offered a licence the first time she went for her test. By the time she’d been failed four times, I was starting to wonder whether it wouldn’t have been cheaper - because by then she was almost at the level of an advanced driver.
But that’s not the point. There’s the time she did pass and was then promptly failed because the car she was in, mine, had a disc that was a fortnight past its expiry date.
There were the times she was asked who her driving instructor was, even though I almost assaulted the one we’d got for her (and paid through the nose for) for trying to sexually harass her in his car during "training". You have to have an instructor because of the all-important, wholly outdated, K53 which is a litany of counter-intuitive driving skills that you only need to learn for your test and then unlearn fast if you want to stay alive on our roads.
She got her licence the hard way. She drives like a dream, which is just as well because it’s not her I’m worried about, it’s the killers on the road. They aren’t the obvious targets: the drunk drivers or the motorists in unroadworthy wrecks all over the CBD, they’re people in late model high performance, mostly German, upmarket sedans, behaving as if they own the roads. They’re the people who push in, take half chances, flick their lights at you to go faster than the speed limit or try to overtake at speed outside a school.
You know the type. You might even be one of them.
Let’s not even start with drunken driving. It’s a joke. You still can’t get a conviction from a breathalyser; it’s only really a screening mechanism to establish whether you need to get taken to the district surgeon to have blood taken. The labs to which your sample will be sent are hopelessly over loaded, the pay is low, the opportunities for samples to be lost, through nefarious means or just sod’s law, are legion.
It’s ironic that we have drink driving laws that are on a par with international best practice, we have almost zero tolerance, but you wouldn’t think so given our prosecution rate. Hell, we’ve still got a high court judge on special leave - a decade after he crashed his Jaguar into a wall in Craighall and eight years after he was convicted of drunken driving - as he fights any bid to have a judicial tribunal probe his fitness for office. There are many other examples; blue light drivers killing pedestrians and maiming motorcyclists.
They should be disgraced, punished, even jailed.
Some, like Jub Jub Maarohanye, eventually do go to jail - for a while.
He ploughed into a group of school kids while he was smashed on drugs and booze. He and his mate Themba Tshabalala were sent down for 25 years on a murder rap after killing four kids and maiming two. They got this overturned to an eight-year stint on a culpable homicide rap and then got freed on parole after serving slightly more than half their revised sentence.
Whoever said the law’s an ass, definitely gets my vote.
We don’t need more laws, we just need them applied uniformly and fairly, all the time.
We need drivers who are trained to drive defensively, not bureaucratically, who don’t opt to do their licence in medium-sized trucks because you don’t have to parallel park in the yard tests if you do. We need their licences to mean that they can actually drive.
We need corrupt traffic cops, bent licensing officers and dodgy prosecutors rooted out and jailed.
The horrible truth is that, all the votes on Tuesday notwithstanding, there isn’t actually the political will to stamp out this scourge. I would love Aarto to work, but it won’t. There are simply too many loopholes - and too many agendas trying to make political headway out of anything.
There’s only one certainty, people will continue to die on our roads - avoidably. And that’s not just our greatest tragedy, it’s our greatest shame too.
* Kevin Ritchie is Independent Media’s Gauteng regional editor.