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Ministry pushes for tough road law

Ntsebeng Motsoeli and Tšepang Makhetha
MASERU — Reckless drivers risk losing their licences if a Bill proposing tough punishment for traffic offenders becomes law, the Sunday Express can reveal.
The draft law, initiated by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, proposes to curb reckless driving by introducing a point system in which drivers are penalised for every traffic offence.
A source in the ministry said the proposed law is almost a replica of the model to be introduced in South Africa later this year where repeated violations of traffic regulations would ultimately lead to the cancellation or suspension of one’s driving licence.
According to the South African system, a driver will have points deducted from their driver’s licence for every classified traffic offence they commit.
Under the system South Africa will introduce in September this year each driver’s licence will have 12 points when it is initially issued by the traffic department.
Points will be deducted when, for example, a driver is caught speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol.
Specific offences that qualify for this demerit system will be classified according to the amount of points they are worth on the driver’s licence.
When a driver has used up all the 12 points their licence will be revoked.
The offending driver will then be banned from getting another licence or driving a vehicle for a specific period. 
A computer database with every licensed driver will be used to monitor the new system.

When a traffic officer enters a driver’s licence number into the system they would be able to retrieve a driver’s previous offences.
Sources say the proposed law, which is currently being reworked at the Department of Traffic and Road Safety’s legal department, also proposes stricter testing procedures for learner drivers.
The Bill, the source says, will be tabled before parliament within the next four months although it might come before the MPs sooner depending on how much time the ministry takes making the final changes to it.
An official in the ministry confirmed that they were working on such a law but refused to go into the details.
“There is such a draft Bill but we cannot talk about the contents because it is still being amended before it is taken to parliament,” he said.
A source close to the drafting of the Bill said “the idea is to make drivers more cautious and responsive to road traffic laws”.
“The system which is currently used to license new drivers is called Natis. It is old and manual,” the source said.
“The ministry plans to change the model to what is called eNatis — a modern computerised system which will help the traffic department to track down offenders.”
The Bill will also propose new number plates for all vehicles in the country.
“On the registration plates, our numbers begin with an alphabetical letter, followed by three or four digits,” the source said.
“The letters have even been doubled to accommodate more registrations.
“But the series is about to come to an end and the new model is not yet known.”

How the SA system works
The South African system works as follows:
• Drivers will be awarded 12 points at the beginning of each year.
• If you lose all 12 points inside one year, your license will be suspended. After three suspensions, your license will be cancelled.
• If a driver remains penalty-free at the end of the year, the next year would start with an additional 12 points plus a bonus, making them a total of 25 points.
• This process would be repeated every year, with good drivers building up a bank of points.
• In the case of major traffic violations, the law will continue to take its normal course.
• The new demerit system has been made possible by the introduction of the card-format driver’s licence, which enables traffic authorities to store the record of every driver.
• Demerits will be rated according to a unit scale.  For example, if a motorist is found with an unregistered vehicle, he/she will be docked two demerit points and get 10 penalty units, which mean a fine of R500. Not having your driver’s licence with you also cost two demerits and a R500 fine. If you are caught not wearing a seatbelt, you will get one demerit and pay a R250 fine.
• Traffic offences to be penalised by three demerits include not stopping at a stop sign and overloading by more than 25 percent. Over-loaders will be penalised by 25 penalty units — a fine of R1 250. Those caught speeding repeatedly will be especially hit with hefty fines and demerits.
• If you are caught doing up to 20 percent over the speed limit, you will get a fine of R250, but no demerit points — for example, speeding up to 72km/h in a 60km/h zone or up to 144km/h in a 120km/h zone.
• If you are 21 percent to 30 percent over the speed limit, you will get one demerit point and a R500 fine — for example, travelling up to 78km/h in a 60km/h zone or up to 156km/h in a 120km/h zone.
• If you are 31 percent to 45 percent over the speed limit, you get two demerit points and a R750 fine — for example, up to 87km/h in a 60km/h zone or 174km/h in a 120km/h zone.
• If you are 46 percent to 60 percent over the speed limit, you are docked three demerit points and fined R1 250 —for example, doing up to 96km/h in a 60km/h zone or up to 192km/h in a 120km/h zone.
• Doing more than 60 percent over the limit will see the driver being taken straight to court where the magistrate will determine the fine – and four demerit points will be deducted.

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