Will spot fines change driver behaviour?

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

One major cause of road accidents is the growing incidence of indiscipline among the motoring public.

While some drivers display absolute impunity on the roads, some pedestrians also disregard traffic regulations, for which reason the victims of road crashes always include pedestrians.

There is a paradox in the system. In the first place, in our part of the world, there is no link between the quality of roads and accidents. Again, the visibility of the police on the roads does not deter reckless drivers.

The police, the National Road Safety Commission and other agencies can provide evidence to show that about 70 per cent of road crashes are caused by human error.

These road crashes do not cause personal loss to families alone but the pain is felt by communities and the country.

When these fatal accidents occur, breadwinners are lost by families, while organisations lose human capital. As for the state, besides losing precious lives, it incurs extra cost in terms of medical care for the accident victims.

Any casual observer of activities on the roads will confirm the findings that accidents are caused through utter disregard for regulations by drivers.

What this means is that the day educational campaigns on road safety succeed to change behaviour among the motoring public, road crashes will decline.

Not too long ago, drivers and the government were on a collision course when the police decided to arrest indisciplined drivers for prosecution. When heavy fines were imposed on the drivers by the courts, they threatened not to vote for the government. Even efforts by the government to review the law to appease the drivers did not amuse them, as they tagged the government as being hostile to their well-being.

The idea of a spot fine for minor traffic offences is not new, except that this is the first time that measures have been put in place to implement the initiative.

All this while, minor motor offences end up at the courts, thereby putting pressure on the courts.

We can all understand why there is always a backlog of cases at the courts, and when the lawyers ask for adjournments, they delay trials and deny litigants justice.

If truly justice delayed is justice denied, then the Daily Graphic thinks the spot fine system will speed up justice delivery for those who break traffic regulations.

The crimes listed to attract spot fines are the common breaches on the road committed by deviants and some respectable people in society who want to get to their destinations early by short-cut.

The failure to renew driving licences, driving on the shoulder of the road, failure to use seat belts and the use of communication devices are the common offences that create room for road crashes.

We think any bold move to confront the phenomenon is commendable. However, we worry about the mode of implementation of the initiative, such that it is not subject to abuse but rather motivates the police to clamp down on indiscipline on the road.

The Daily Graphic pauses to ask the Ghana Police Service whether it has put in place the mechanisms that will deter its personnel from conniving with offending drivers to circumvent the system.

We are also not too sure whether our police are adequately resourced to handle the enormous system to achieve the desired result.

The Daily Graphic concedes that the implementation of the spot fine system will come up against challenges, including subtle moves to sabotage it, but we appeal to the police and the motoring public to help implement it to reduce pressure on the courts and the law enforcement agencies, as well as raise revenue for the state.