Tough new measures will govern how traffic offences are handled by transport authorities. Picture: Shelly Kjonstadt

Motorists found guilty of serious traffic offences such as drunk driving, speeding or reckless and negligent driving will be forced to sit both their driving tests and learner’s licences again as part of a new government drive to reduce the carnage on South African roads.

The campaign, known as Project Woza, was announced this week by Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) chief executive Collins Letsoalo, and already 500 SA motorists have been found guilty in court of such offences and will now have to queue to redo their tests.

The programme will apply to:

* Driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances with narcotic effects.

* Reckless, negligent and/or inconsiderate driving.

* Excessive speeding (exceeding the limit by more than 30km/h in built-up areas or by more than 40km/h on freeways).

“The intention of this programme is to suspend the driving licence of any driver who has been found guilty by a court of law, of one or more of the above offences, dating back from January 1 this year, pending the outcome of a re-test of both, their learner’s and driving licences,” said Letsoalo.

According to national Transport Department spokesman Logan Maistry, road crashes in SA claim more than 16 000 lives a year (about 44 people every day) and cost the economy about R56 billion last year.

“What we hope to achieve through Project Woza Re-Test is to ensure that all drivers who hold licences and drive on public roads are competent and safe,” the RTMC said.

“Where a person is found to be incompetent, then a re-test will require them to undergo additional training before they can be found compliant with the safety prescripts of the act.” Although the campaign has been welcomed by the South Africans Against Drunk Driving campaign, some civil society groups have expressed fears that the campaign could impinge on the powers of judges and magistrates, who have the power to exercise their discretion not to suspend driving licences if they believe there are special circumstances.

According to Letsoalo, convicted offenders would be given 14 working days in which to explain why their licences should not be suspended pending the outcome of a re-test of the learner’s and driving licences.

“The re-test will be at the RTMC’s cost and will be conducted by a duly nominated examination officer at an identified testing centre or traffic college,” he said.

“Should the offender fail the initial test, the costs for subsequent tests will be for the account of the offender. Shortly, the RTMC will also be partnering with a private sector company to offer driver education classes at no cost.”

South Africans Against Drunk Driving founder Caro Smit said many drivers tended to regard driving after a few drinks as acceptable, and the new measures would help to make roads safer.

“Alcohol is no joking matter – too many of our people are dying on the roads because of alcohol,” she said.

In addition to getting retested, motorists convicted of an alcohol-related traffic offence should also undergo comprehensive education on alcohol consumption – and if they showed signs of alcohol addiction, they should be compelled to undergo a rehabilitation programme, Smit said.

Motorists should also familiarise themselves with the number of alcohol units allowed by law, and the time it would take for alcohol to be eliminated from the bloodstream, she said. - The Mercury