The just ended Parliament sitting has been an exciting one. However, my reasons for excitement might be different from most people because it is not necessarily due to the fact that members of Parliament finally made it possible for the next election to take place as ordered by the Constitutional Court on February 3.
My delight stems from the passing of several traffic laws, particularly the one that, for the first time, introduces a fine for vehicles that breakdown in the middle of the road and obstruct traffic. I am sure every driver has experienced the frustration of delays on the road because a shipping-truck, lorry or a bus has broken down and blocked the road.
In this new traffic law, an offender will be required to pay K130, 000. While I acknowledge this as a very good first step. I personally feel that this fee is a bit on the lower side to deter would-be offenders. I wish our lawmakers had included that this fee should be charged per day because more often vehicles that breakdown and block the road take days to be removed.
In 2015 I wrote an article in this column in which I made a few suggestions to deal with vehicles that obstruct traffic, including the introduction of fines. Here is what I proposed then…
…this scenario is something I have witnessed in all our cities and major towns. Vehicles, mostly fully-loaded trucks, break down in the middle of the road causing traffic congestion for hours. Traffic police officers rush to the scene to control traffic, especially during rush hours and this is appreciated, but how long they do this very much depends on the time it takes the owner of the truck to have it repaired and removed from the road.
Yes, I said repaired… many times nobody even bothers to just pull the damn vehicle on the roadside and repair it there. They repair it right in the middle of the road! Considering that these incidences happen in our cities often I don’t understand why the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) has not introduced regulations to penalize those whose broken down vehicles are not removed in a timely fashion from the road. Regulations would rid us of this nuisance but also maintain safety on the roads.
Let me offer a few ideas. When a vehicle breaks down on the road DRTSS should determine how long the owner should be allowed to remove the vehicle, failing which they should be fined by the hour. So, for example, if the vehicle stays longer than an hour from the time it breaks down the owner pays K5000 for every additional hour.
Because nobody would like to fork out this much, I am sure within an hour a breakdown occurs, the owner would ensure their vehicle is no longer blocking traffic. The DRTSS or the city councils could invest in towing machines to hire out to remove broken down vehicles from the road. The owner of the vehicle would be charged for the job.
If they fail to pay, the vehicle would be towed to a designated place where to redeem it the owner would pay extra to cover the cost of keeping the vehicle in the impound yard. Trust me, this would persuade people to promptly remove their vehicles off the road when they breakdown. Not to mention the obvious and easy source of revenue for the DRTSS and the city councils.
Marcus Muhariwa is a trained journalist and communications professional. He has a passion for writing on social issues.