Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
THE Government is working on a law that will see traffic offenders accumulating demerit points that will result in their drivers’ licences being revoked as part of measures to curb reckless driving that has contributed to road accidents.
In addition, new traffic signs stipulating minimum speed limits will also be erected on certain stretches of highways after it was discovered that some accidents were caused by slow drivers. Those caught driving below the minimum speed limit will be fined. At the moment regulations to do with speed was focusing on maximum speed only. Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe spokesperson Mr Ernest Muchena told Sunday News that the envisaged new traffic law would introduce a driving offence penalty points system. The driving offence penalty points system is one in which authorities issue points to drivers which will be docked on conviction for road traffic offences.
If a driver repeatedly contravenes traffic laws and exhausts their allocated points they may be disqualified from driving for a time, or their driving licence may be revoked. Mr Muchena said the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Jorum Gumbo, has put in place an all stakeholders committee, led by the TSCZ to start the process of crafting the new law.
He said the committee will hold wide consultations with other stakeholders as it comes up with an outline of traffic offences that will be covered under the points system.
“According to the Road Traffic Act chapter 13:11 the minister is allowed to craft a statutory instrument which puts into effect a penalty points system. For example the system may start with each driver at 15 points and when someone transgresses the law, say drinking under the influence of alcohol, three points will be deducted and they are left with 12 points. If you continue transgressing the law more points will be deducted and if one gets to zero, their licence is taken away,” he said. Mr Muchena said after consultations, the committee will come up with a proposal that will be sent to the minister to craft the relevant statutory instrument. He said under the envisaged system only serious traffic offences and not all transgressions will warrant docking of points.
“The minister has tasked the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to lead the process of coming up with content outlining which offences to include in penalties system. The system may not cover every offence. It’s an all stakeholders committee that has been set led by TSCZ to conduct consultations and come up with a proposal that will be presented to the minister and crafted into the Statutory Instrument which will effect the penalty system,” he said.
Mr Muchena said the new system is expected to complement existing measures in deterring drivers from habitually contravening road traffic laws. He was however, non-committal on when the new law is expected to come into effect. On the minimum speed limits which come with the upgraded Highway Code, Mr Muchena said the provision was, in the same vain as the maximum speed limit, meant to help reduce road traffic accidents.
“The upgraded Highway Code also has minimum speed signs. We were used to regulatory signs but we now have prohibitive and command signs. The minimum speed sign is white with a blue background and tells the driver to travel for example at 50 km/hr or above. If you are caught driving bellow 50km/hr that will be an offence,” he said. Added Mr Muchena, “You will not find that sort of sign in Bulawayo urban but maybe on the road from Bulawayo to Nkayi where there may be a continuous stretch. When you are traveling at 100km/hr on such a stretch then you come across someone driving at 30km/hr, such scenarios may contribute to accidents, especially when you are coming from behind.”
He said some of the new signs in the upgraded Highway Code include the box junction which has already been introduced at some intersections in Harare’s Central Business District and will be introduced in Bulawayo soon.
“The upgrade Highway Code has incorporated Sadc signs which are uniform in the region. There are new signs which are equivalent to the old signs and the onus is now on the driver to get a copy of the upgraded Highway Code and familiarise themselves with the new signs. The upgraded Highway Code has a chart that has both old signs and new signs which share the same meaning but are different. For example the new give way sign does not have the words give way but an inverted triangle or yield sign which means the same as give way,” said Mr Muchena.