With the coming into operation of the traffic court at the beginning of this week, I ponder whether this long awaited development will have the desired benefits. This can only be achieved if proper administration ethics are implemented and would-be offenders are put to book, as stipulated by the law.
Road safety is one of the major public health concerns nowadays. According to the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.25 million deaths worldwide and 20 million people are injured or disabled by road traffic injuries, each year.
Thus the traffic court is indeed a milestone development towards bringing up to date the backlog in traffic cases, and in enhancing the enforcement of traffic laws in Namibia. This is in view of the more than 80,000 outstanding traffic cases in Windhoek alone.
But will this measure be the final nail in the coffin for traffic offences now? I beg to differ as the issue of corruption may still bring out its ugly head again, due to several factors, high among them being moral decay and economic hardships facing the general populace.
These factors feed and breed corruption, hence I call for a more transparent approach towards handling traffic offences, which will go a long way in addressing the high number of carnages on our roads and loss of very valuable lives in our country.
Point-record driving licences are widely used nowadays to enforce road legislation, but with diverse implementations from one country to the other. As any non-monetary sanction, depriving offenders from their licence allows the government to incapacitate dangerous individuals.
The desirable features of point-record licence mechanisms can vary from country to country and also due to the intensity of the traffic offence, hence this will work hand in glove with the now operational traffic court.
Practically, drivers receive points on their driving licence after being found guilty of any driving offence. In the developed world, drivers start with a clean driving licence. Points are accumulated for each driving offence. A driver who receives 18 points or any agreed number of points will have their driving licence revoked.
If the licence is revoked twice in the space of a number of stipulated years: the driver must re-sit the driving test before their licence is renewed; or the driver will be banned from driving for one year or more before he or she is allowed to sit for a new test to regain their licence.
The point-record driving licence aims to reduce the number of repeat offenders, while supporting those who take proper care to be alert and drive safely. It also has the advantage that if one makes a single, genuine mistake, they have the opportunity to rectify it without immediately losing their licence.
The system works by assigning points to various offences, which also ensures that those who are consistently driving dangerously and not following driving regulations quickly accumulate points and are, as a result, prevented from driving, thus helping ensure the safety of other road users.
The aim of the penalty point system should not be to scare people into becoming better drivers; this could be an ineffective system if that is the case.
Instead, it allows drivers the opportunity to rectify their mistakes and, in the case of repeat offenders, to receive education, training and re-testing to ensure that their knowledge and understanding of driving safety is fully up to scratch.
In conclusion, these changes can contribute in a substantial way to making driving in Namibia safer for all concerned. So, whether one is a new driver, or an experienced one, they can play their part in making sure that they take proper measures to ensure the maximum safety on the road, for them and other road users.
• McHenry Venaani is president of the official opposition, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM).