More tough times await motorists as the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS) has adjusted upwards fees and penalties for road traffic services and offences.
Under the new schedule, errant drivers will be liable to pay up to 10 times more for specified traffic crimes.
But while the directorate says the direction taken is an attempt to reduce violations of road traffic laws resulting in fatal accidents, some motorists feel the adjustments will have insignificant impact.
The new penalties and fees, to come into effect from November 13 2017, show that drivers found driving a motor vehicle without a licence or a professional driving permit will be fined K100 000, up from the current K8 000, representing a 1 150 percent hike.
Fine for failure to carry a driver’s or learner’s licence or professional driving permit, which was initially at K5 000, has been adjusted to K30 000.
Owners of passenger service vehicles (PSVs) with a capacity of more than 32 passengers without a certificate of insurance risk paying K1 million while those with less than 32 passengers with pay K500 000, according to the new schedule. Minibuses will pay K200 000, on the other hand.
The fine for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol with above 0.1gramme/210mm breath is now pegged at K200 000 or a three-year jail term. The drivers will also be suspended from driving for a year.
DRTSS said the coming into effect of the new penalties and fees follows government notices number 55 and 56; Road Traffic Act (CAP.69.01) Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Fees) (Amendment) Regulations and Road Traffic Act (CAP.69.01) Road Traffic (Prescribed Offences and Penalties) (Amendment) Regulations 2017, respectively.
In a statement last week, the department said the adjustments were necessitated by increased cost of services and materials it uses to serve the general public.
“On the other hand, the continued increase in violations of road traffic laws has shown that the current fines and penalties are not deterrent enough hence the increase,” reads part of the statement.
In an interview yesterday, DRTSS spokesperson Angelina Makwecha justified the adjustments, saying there was “a lot of lawlessness amongst motorists”.
She said: “Our perception is that the current fines and penalties are not deterrent enough as such we believe increasing the fines/penalties will force them to follow road traffic rules and regulations.”
However, Makwecha said there was no cause for worry for motorists unless they “intend to continue with violations of road traffic rules and regulations”.
She said DRTSS expected motorist to follow the road traffic rules and regulations voluntarily and in collaboration with Traffic Police they will intensify road traffic enforcements in order to reverse the current accident trend the country is experiencing.
But reacting to the adjustments, Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) general secretary Coaxley Kamange expressed surprise with the adjustments stating they will not produce anything better but magnify corruption.
He questioned the directorate’s reasoning that the austere penalties would help reduce accidents when they are actually meted out after an accident has already occurred.
He said: “Prohibitive penalties will not help promote safety and prevent accidents. Their concern should be on what is causing these accidents. Are the accidents due to over speeding or are they happening at night when people are exhausted or drunk?
“Thereafter, the directorate should put in place measures to prevent the accidents and not penalising motorists after an accident had already done, they are not helping the situation.”
Kamange challenged that as long as the directorate believes a solution to reduce accidents is by giving out stiff penalties and adjusting fees, accidents would never be controlled.
“Even if they put the fees at K1 million accidents will never end but instead we will be amplifying corruption,” said the Moam secretary general.
But Makwecha dismissed Kamange’s assertion saying people do not indulge in corruption because the fines are high but because they are corrupt themselves and corruption is deeply rooted in them.
“So, whether we increase or not those who are corrupt will always find justification for doing it. As a matter of fact DRTSS does not condone corruption, and I should request the general public and particularly you the media to expose every corrupt practices you will come across with respect to the raised fines,” she said.
Makwecha also said plans were underway to completely abandon the current process of spot fines for motorists and migrate to Electronic Traffic Law Enforcement which requires motorist to pay fines at the bank.
Electronic traffic law enforcement, she said, would help reduce human interference in as far as issues of payment of traffic penalties are concerned. n