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PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT
31 May 2006
LEGAL RESOURCES CENTRE ON ROAD SAFETY ISSUES: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)
Documents handed out;
Strategic Focus to Improve Road Safety
Road Safety as Human Rights Issue
Efforts to Improve Road Safety in Kenya
What is Intelligent Adaptation and Would Implementation be Beneficial in the Developing World?
The Legal Resources Centre briefed the Committee on the need to address challenges to road safety as human rights. Various examples were given about how human rights were being violated, and Kenya as a case study was used to illustrate that some of the same challenges could be overcome. The use of technology and other possible measures to reduce road accidents and casualties were also discussed.
Members were very concerned about safety on the roads for drivers and pedestrians. Members also felt that law enforcement had to be taken seriously and that stiffer penalties and sentences should be imposed on offenders.
Briefing by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) on Road Safety Issues.
Mr P Hoffman (Senior Council at the Cape Bar) argued that road safety is a human right derived from the Bill of Rights. The examples Mr Hoffman gave to support his position were:
1. The right to life which is in Section 11 of the Constitution. Mr Hoffman informed the Committee that 18 000 people per year lost their lives on South Africa’s roads, which was more than the death toll in the Iraqi war. Amongst the 18 000 people who were losing their lives many of them were bread winners, skilled personal and tax payers, thus the country every year was losing much needed people. On this point Mr Hoffman argued that it was better for the government to invest its money in solving the problem because it is costing the country R40 billion to deal with the problem every year which is money which could be used to build schools, houses and hospitals.
2. Freedom from violence in Section 12(1)(c) in the Constitution was raised, with the argument being that everyone has the right to be free from both private and public sources of violence, in which accidents were a form of violence being inflicted on people.
3. The right to bodily and psychological integrity in Section 12(2) in the Bill of Rights, which includes the right to security in and over the body. Mr Hoffman continued to argue that the government had the obligation to protect civilians from the violation of their rights.
4. The right to human dignity was also mentioned because Mr Hoffman believed that driving was not a dignified experience on the roads, nor was dieing on the roads violently. Therefore the preservation of a citizen’s dignity is something the government would have to pursue.
5. Environmental rights where mentioned because the transport network/system is part of a bigger system. People have the right to a healthy environment which is not harmful to them. The roads according to Mr Hoffman have proved to be harmful; hence the government must work towards ensuring that the environment people live in is made safer for them.
6. Children’s rights where mentioned because children also use the roads and they also have the right to be protected from neglect and abuse.
Mr Hoffman proceeded to introduce three main topics considered to be of primary importance. The three topics where law enforcement which involved police officials being less lenient on people who broke the law, maintenance of roads which ensured safe travel, and the attitude of the drivers which would save lives and reduce the number of casualties.
Other measures suggested improving the transport system to alter the times children go to school because this would then lessen the flow of traffic during rush hour. Implementing measures to reduce speeding was mentioned because after analysing his study, Mr Hoffman said that when people drove at slower speeds the number of accidents was statistically reduced. Government support was also crucial because to overcome the challenges. This could be done from drawing on examples from other countries.
Mr T Mbara (University of Cape Town (UCT)) was then given an opportunity to explain the Kenya comparison. Mr Mbara told the Committee that Kenya had similar problems to South Africa, with concerns in the transport system escalating but through political will, new policies and a strict implementation of the laws led to a massive reduction of road accidents and job creation due to investors taking an interest.
Ms M Vanderschuren (UCT) stated that techniques such as speed adaptation, counter pressure on the gas pedal, governors, GPRS tracking and other technologies were all measures which the state could use to control traffic so as to reduce the number of accidents on the roads.
Mr B L Mashile (ANC) asked Mr Hoffman how his arguments related to the constitutional provision that determined the State must be do everything "within the limits of the state."
Ms W Ngwenya (ANC) asked for clarity on why there were delays in processing third party claims and why people were refused compensation on the behalf of their children.
Mr Hoffman said that the processing of claims took time because the Road Accident Fund (RAF) wanted to first see how bad the injuries were before agreeing to compensation.
An ANC Member raised the concern that drivers were not solely responsible for accidents but that pedestrians also caused road accidents because they jaywalked and did not use designated pedestrian areas.
Mr Hoffman said that there should be no pedestrians on national roads.
Mr S B Farrow (DA) asked if Mr Hoffman had considered the implications of taking his arguments to the next stage in terms of regulative legislation.
Mr Hoffman’s response was that the concerns that he was raising had been considered and he said that if government did not play its role whether it be at municipal, provincial or national level they would be sued.
The Chairperson listed other challenges facing the transport system. He also discussed the apathy of the judiciary in terms of implementing laws pertaining to crimes committed on the road.
Ms N D Mbombo (ANC) talked about taxi drivers’ lives, the troubles they go through as well as the stress they have to deal with. She agued that if taxi drivers were treated with respect and communicated with in a civil manner their behavior on the roads would improve, thus reducing the number of accidents.
Ms M D Nxumalo (ANC) raised the issue of dangerous games being played on trains which were leading to deaths. She asked what could be done to stop this
Mr O M Mogale (ANC) asked why South Africa was having trouble implementing some of the measures Kenya used to solve their problems.
Ms L N Moss (ANC) added that something needed to be done about the traffic on the N1 and N2 highway.
Mr B L Mashile (ANC) also mentioned the need to resolve the issue of police officials getting bribed.
The Chairperson agreed with this statement that enforcement was an issue because of corruption.
The meeting was adjourned.
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