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19.01.2007 General News

Punishment For Offending Motorists

By Daily Graphic
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There is no doubt that majority of Ghanaians want something drastic to be done to deter irresponsible driving and bring about sanity on our roads. Indeed, most of the fatal road accidents are attributable to human error and are thus avoidable.

However, there are others who are of the opinion that there is the need for sustained education on road safety regulations to enable our drivers to change from their dysfunctional attitudes and promote responsible driving.

Those who want drastic action have always yearned for stiffer penalties against motor traffic offences, particularly reckless driving, such as jumping the red light or driving on the shoulders of the road.

Therefore, the announcement that stiffer punishment awaits motor traffic offenders could give the signal that at long last we are determined to deal with irresponsible behaviour on the part of drivers on our roads.

The intention of the law is to ensure sanity on our roads. That requires the strict enforcement of road traffic regulations and the close monitoring of the police personnel responsible for motor traffic and transport.

Particularly because of the huge fines involved, ranging between ¢6 million and ¢12 million, there is the need to monitor the police to avert any abuses. Indeed, if care is not taken, deviant motorists will conspire with corrupt police officers to undermine the law.

There is also the possibility of police officers baselessly arresting drivers, mindful of the fact that such drivers will be more vulnerable and thus easily predisposed to negotiate a settlement outside the formal court system.

Even with the court system, there could be abuses, as was alleged last year when some court officials were said to have colluded with some police officers to deny the state of huge sums from fines for motor traffic offences.

In the circumstance, we would want to appeal to the Inspector-General of Police and the Commanding Officer of the Police Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) to develop measures to check any possible abuse by their men.

We equally appeal to the Chief Justice to ensure that judges who will preside over the motor courts are not predisposed to sacrifice justice on the alter of efficiency by rushing through with cases, instead of painstakingly taking evidence to arrive at meaningful and fulfilling justice.

Our observation is that motorists would do everything to avoid imprisonment, even for a day, because of the stigma associated with prison life.

Therefore, where a plea of not guilty will automatically mean detention or remand, suspects would plead guilty, even when they know, and others can testify, that they did nothing wrong.

Further, our appeal to motorists, drivers' unions, the police and the courts is that we must continue to embark upon driver education to promote responsible driving, even as the full rigours of the law are applied against the incorrigible ones.

We must let the new law benefit the state, instead of enriching some individuals or subjecting others to unwarranted prosecution. The law must not be made to be an ass.

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