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New weapon in traffic cops’ arsenal

The Sunday Times this week reported on the long-promised demerit scheme set to weed out South Africa’s worst drivers.

Habitual offenders will rack up points depending on the severity of their traffic mishap, thus risking the suspension or cancellation of their driver’s licences. A pilot project to test the system will be launched in Pretoria/Tshwane early next year, to be followed by a national roll-out.

All good, in principle. Practically, it might take a while to get the system up and running. The Sunday Times article mentions obvious challenges of funding, staffing and training. And if the bungle that was the roll-out of eNatis, the national traffic and licensing information system, was anything to go by …

Still, I find the prospect — however remote — of South Africa’s terrible drivers being forced to clean up their act extremely appealing (even if some of them might bribe their way out of it). Thus far, 15 000 people have died on our roads this year, Netcare said this week.

I’m no daredevil driver — a friend claims I drive like a little old lady — but stepped-up traffic law enforcement in Johannesburg in the past year has seen even me slammed with fines totalling more than R1 000.

Those BMW snobs who roar past me, only to have to stop anyway at the next traffic light, or those who pilot souped-up Golfs and dash in and out of traffic without indicating — they must be racking up huge fines. Taxi drivers — collectively they must have millions in outstanding fines. Still, their driving does not improve and harsher steps do seem necessary.

Hopefully my 76-in-a-60-zone offences won’t soon lead to my licence being taken away for a month, but to all those who do 160km/h on the N1, I hope you know the bus schedule in your neighbourhood.

As for taxi drivers like Israel Mkhize — quoted by the Sunday Times as saying: “Hey, this system is going to be bad for us. It’s going to put people like me out of work. If I lose my licence, I can’t work.” — I sincerely hope the system does put people like you out of work. Maybe you’ll think twice next time you dash over that red traffic light with too many passengers risking their lives in the back of your taxi.