Parliament has approved an increase in fines for various traffic offences from between US$5 and US$20 to a maximum US$100.
The new fines become effective this Friday on New Year’s day.
Motorists who proceed against a red traffic light, overtake over a solid white line, drive without a licence, or operate faulty vehicle without a foot brake being fined US$100 for each of offence up from the current US$20. Encroaching white lines at traffic light stops and verbally abusing other road users now attract US$20 fines from US$10. Motorists have raised concerns that the penalties are steep and will increase corruption.
According to a Government Gazette published a fortnight ago, the legislature gave the nod to the passage of the 2016 National Budget which, among other interventions, will see traffic fines being increased.
Government contends that the increase in fines was necessitated by growing carnage on the country’s roads as a result of human error and reckless driving.
An average of five people have died daily in road traffic accidents between 2009 and last year, while two were injured every hour, according to the 2014 Annual Zimbabwe Republic Police Traffic Report.
During the period, the country witnessed a surge in road traffic accidents.
This was attributed to an increased vehicle population following improved economic performance that saw more people importing cheap Japanese cars.
There is a mismatch between the actual number of vehicles on the roads between figures the Central Vehicle Registry has on its books and what the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration says.
CVR data shows 1,4 million vehicles cumulative from 1918, while the Zinara database shows that less than 500 000 vehicles are paying licence fees.
Police statistics show that 41 016 road traffic accidents were recorded in 2014, a nine percent increase from 31 619 reported in 2013.
At least 1 692 people were reported to have died in road traffic accidents in 2014 compared to 1 782 the previous year.
Police say an average 1 824 people died each year between 2009 and 2014.
Public transport operators, especially commuter omnibus drivers, have been accused of causing many accidents.
And while Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators secretary Mr Ngoni Katsvairo acknowledged reckless drivers in their organisation, he said the new fines would increase corruption involving Traffic Police and motorists.
“The increase in traffic fines will only fuel corruption. You will find that there are many unroadworthy vehicles and drivers with no licenses on our roads because authorities are bribed and thus offenders are not arrested.
“There is need for Government to introduce stiffer penalties which do not involve cash at all, such as imprisonment to discourage motorists from breaking the law.”
Zimbabwe Republic Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said: “I am not in the office please contact Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi.”
Chief Supt Nyathi declined to comment saying: “I cannot comment on spot fine issues, I am not at work.”
Government says it is moving to encourage good road user behaviour.
Presenting the 2016 National Budget in Parliament last month, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa asked legislators to enforce an upward increase of traffic fines.
He proposed a review of road traffic fines to begin from level two and end at level four of the standard scale.
The minister said fines for offences related to double parking, no stopping, no parking, no left/right turn, vehicles with fuel and oil leaks, discarding rubbish from vehicles, and spitting in or from vehicles be moved from level one to level two attracting US$10 up from US$5
Failure to signal slow down, stop or violating a turn right or left sign, cutting a corner and proceeding against an amber traffic light, he proposed, should attract US$20 fines up from US$10.
“Some motorists, particularly, commuter omnibus and ‘mshika-shika’ drivers continue to risk the lives of passengers and other motorists due to negligent driving,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“The most common offences committed include, proceeding against red robots, overtaking against white solid lines, driving on the wrong side of the road, dropping passengers at undesignated points and failing to stop when instructed to do so by the police, among others.”
He said traffic fines were meant to be a deterrent, but the current standard scale of fines – last reviewed in 2009 — did not promote safety and discipline.
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