The Department of transport has recently tabled a proposal to have the national speed limit reduced by about 30%. This in the hope that it will help to reduce the amount of vehicle related accidents. The department has gazetted the amendment and has invited the public to comment.

The proposed limits are:

– 40km/h in urban areas;

– 80km/h on roads other than a freeway outside urban areas; and

– 120km/h on freeways – provided that a speed limit of 100km/h applies in cases where a freeway passes through a habited area.

The Justice Project of South Africa’s Chairman, Howard Dembovsky, mentioned that in highly populated areas, it could have a positive impact but that the definition of these areas was so fluid, the overall impact would be lower than the effort to change the legislation. Many of the road users that do so on a professional basis, become complacent about their speed, often with catastrophic consequences, he added.

Last year, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency reported that 92% of the 6 041 555 traffic fines issued in Johannesburg during 2013/14, were camera speeding fines. None of these drivers were physically stopped and thus no real accidents were prevented by the intervention of a speed camera. The Department also cannot confirm how many of these fines were actually paid or just ignored.

A comment from Caro Smith, Director at South Africans Against Drunk Driving, said that cameras were merely a tool to generate revenue for the government and failed as a genuine speed enforcement tactic. She added that the income from those fines, should go directly to increasing the number of active traffic officers, which in turn do have a positive impact on the rate of speeding. The majority of traffic officers are on duty during office hours, which is when the lowest incidence of accidents occurs. It’s over the weekends and at night that the majority of collisions happen. The speed reduction will certainly help in areas where there is heavy pedestrian traffic, such as schools, but outside of these – positive impact is negligible, she added.

It will be interesting to see what the impact of the change of legislation has on the overall incident of road traffic infringements is. Any reduction in road accidents will be welcomed by all of us, we imagine.