Unlicensed number plates, why do we accommodate them on our roads?

BY: Vicky Wireko

I have come to appreciate that in life, there is nothing like a middle way.  You either have or you do not.  So why do we have unlicensed number plates on our roads, even if temporary?

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A close observation I have made over so many months on unlicensed vehicles plying the streets of our cities, on our highways and even at funerals in the rural areas has left me wondering why the Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) allows unlicensed vehicles to ply our roads even if for one week. 

DVLA rules

One is aware that the authority has some rules about the movement of all such vehicles which have been  documented and the drivers must carry these with them.  However, if the authority knows that those vehicles are not properly registered to be on the road, why give them the permit anyway when we could have saved ourselves the printing of covering documentation?  Plus in a land where lawlessness has swallowed us to the neck. why do we then introduce measures that make room for exploitation?


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Over the period that I set myself to monitor closely the presence of unregistered vehicles on our roads, I have observed that virtually for every six vehicles encountered, one of them is unregistered.  Some of them even have the liberty to advertise “for sale” on their vehicles.

If a vehicle is not using a regular identifiable number plate, it is as good as saying that it is not fully licensed to be on our roads.  It is that simple.  Why do we leave a middle way for people to manoeuvre? 

Impunity

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As if we do not have enough impunity on our roads, miscreants are using such unlicensed vehicles to indulge in crimes and other misconducts.  I can testify to that.

Sometime last year, and that was when I started monitoring the number of unregistered vehicles on our roads, a young man using some old unregistered vehicle ran into the back of my car while in traffic.  The impact was so great we both had to stop to inspect our vehicles.

Realising the extent of damage he had caused to my car, he began to panic and pleaded that we settle it amicably.  I decided not to take any of his pleas, especially with the kind of demeanour he was displaying.  I asked for his unregistered number plates and informed him I was calling the police to the scene.  Without hesitation, he handed over the number plates and just as I picked up my phone to make a call, he jumped into the car with the excuse that he was parking properly to give way to traffic behind him.   The next I realised, he had sped off, leaving me speechless.

Later at the Korle-Bu police station where I had gone with the number plates to report the incident, the police officer on duty told me the number plates had expired and was not going to yield any useful trace at the DVLA.

So how would anyone know what is a genuine unregistered number plate and an expired one?  Unless the police stop such a driver, are lives and property not in danger allowing the issuance of temporary unregistered number plates?  Are we better off with or without them?

Apart from the crime or misconduct that some drivers of such vehicles may cause, we should also bear in mind that our roads are already choked with vehicles.  One can spend endless unproductive time just waiting in traffic.  So can we not use proper registration as a means of limiting the number of vehicles put on our roads every day? 

Safety of road users

DVLA will do well to protect  all other road users by giving anyone who imports a vehicle into the country a limited time of 24 hours within which to properly register their vehicles before they go on the road.  The authority then has to create enough dedicated desks throughout its branches to deal solely with the 24-hour registration. 

They even stand a better chance of making more income asking for a one-time lump sum payment than the current double process of temporary and then a permanent registration.  The excuse of documentation on the movement of the unregistered vehicles around is untenable.  We should rather be looking for lasting solutions rather than stopgaps.

A vehicle on the road which does not have proper registration must be deemed a risk to all road users.  We should simplify our systems and processes and not leave room for lawlessness and exploits.  This cumbersome way of doing business is taxing, socially and financially, and we should not be making any justifications for them going forward.

 

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