‘DD’ A LICENCE TO KILL?

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‘DD’ A LICENCE TO KILL?
‘DD’ A LICENCE TO KILL?

Africa-Press – Eswatini. A debate has ensued over the legality of detaining drink-drivers (DDs) out of police cells, as some lawyers contend that such detention shall only be as long as it is necessary to take blood samples, which means one or two hours. Police disagree, arguing that they can use their discretion. As a ‘DD’ victim, I feel compelled to weigh in on the matter.

I have personally experienced the anguish of losing a family member to a drunk driver. I lost my mother as a result of this. May her soul find eternal peace. Thank God my two sons and nephew, who were in the same car, miraculously survived major injuries. My nephew shattered his leg, and his walk has never been the same.

Appearance

This week numerous legal experts questioned the legitimacy of keeping drunk drivers before their court appearance. I wish such determination would extend to whether drunk drivers are penalised sufficiently to compensate the victims.

According to the Road Traffic Act of 2007, they can buy their freedom with a maximum fine of E5 000, imprisonment for no more than four years, or both on a single count. This discussion comes at a time when ‘DD’ cases are on the rise and magistrates are no longer available on weekends to hear cases and assist suspected offenders in avoiding weekends behind bars. The growing number of drink-driving cases, and accompanying incidents, is undoubtedly a cause for worry, necessitating greater proactive action from all parties involved.

The Prime Minister’s Office recently reported a 6.6 per cent rise in fatal accidents over the past 12 months. We must put an end to the deaths caused by people who ignore traffic laws and believe they can do harm without consequences. Shirley Kenny-Motsa, an amazing athlete, cyclist and mother of two children, died as a result of a drink-driving incident while jogging along the Mbabane by-pass route at Manzana.

Increased

Unashamedly, the number of ‘DD’ cases increased on the weekend of her funeral, with 115 suspected drink-drivers appearing in court, one of whom injured a pedestrian and left the scene. The following week, the ‘DD’ cases increased to 185. I also enjoy jogging and use the same route that claimed Shirley’s life (may her good spirit rest in eternal peace), so I have reason to see the discussion from a different perspective.

This tragedy also has an impact on taxpayers who contribute to the Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF) through fuel levies, in addition to the victims’ families. This scenario is causing significant financial difficulties for the SMVAF. In a recent interview with the Times SUNDAY, SMVAF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) David Myeni stated that the organisation presently handled an average of 17 new traffic accident claims per week.

This equates to an exposure of around E2 million per week and E108 million annually. He stated that there has been a huge increase in the number of claims lodged, with over 1 100 filed annually, up from the prior average of 800. Myeni raised concern about the fund’s insufficient cash flow to sustain its activities. In 2023, the fund received roughly E144 million from the levy but had to set aside around E164.6 million for claims. One possible outcome is that innocent motorists may be forced to pay for the increase in fuel charges.

Fuel

It is hard enough that the fuel tax increased by seven cents per litre over several months last year, causing financial distress and leaving us with empty wallets. While the SMVAF has faced criticism for sponsoring the Ingwenyama Cup tournament, any financial expert would argue that even if the entity discontinued this corporate social responsibility initiative, the rapid increase in traffic accidents would deplete the fund more quickly than Facebook consumes your cellphone data.

Furthermore, it is critical to examine the current strain on the country’s healthcare system, which is incapable of bearing the additional cost produced by human negligence. In most cases, accident victims require expert care, which frequently results in referrals to neighbouring countries at a higher cost. We are aware that Eswatini is struggling to pay off its outstanding debts to health service providers. All of these escalating costs will inevitably result in additional costs for all taxpayers as the demand for increased healthcare spending grows.

Therefore, if there is one aspect of the rising ‘DD’ cases that should be the core of the discussions, it should be increasing the punishment for driving under the influence. To effectively confront individuals who believe they can act with impunity, we must move beyond the current fines for driving under the influence to long-term jail sentences and driver’s licence suspensions. It is critical that we take decisive action to stop individuals who believe they have a licence to kill on our roads.

Source: TIMES

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