Like it or not, this country has speed limits. Their validity remains a hotly debated topic with slogans like “Speed Kills” on the one hand and “It’s not speed that kills but the sudden stop” on the other being bandied about.
Traffic law with regards to speed offences is and remains a fairly ambiguous point of law due to the fact that certain speeding offences can evolve from a “misdemeanour” to a criminal offence. There are a number of things that you, the motorist need to bear in mind about committing this offence.
Whilst speed does not feature very strongly as the reason for most road fatalities in South Africa, traffic enforcement in this country focuses almost solely on speed enforcement, mainly because it is the easiest to prove and the biggest cash earner. The JMPD were recently exposed as having a speed prosecution rate of 98.94% and more recently, Cape Town admitted to 60% of all prosecutions being for speed offences.
There are two distinct types of speed prosecution you can be subjected to, Camera based ones and where you are stopped and issued a ticket or worse – arrested.
Camera Fines by Post
Speed cameras of all varieties are used in South Africa. These include Laser (LIDAR), Radar, Piezo and time over distance. By far the most common equipment in use is Laser or (LIDAR) and cameras are attached to this equipment and then used to photograph a vehicle infringing the law.
When a vehicle is snapped, it is generally from a rear perspective and the quality of the photo varies from camera to camera. This methodology effectively places the burden of proof of who was in control of the vehicle at the time firmly in your lap since the NRTA presumes the registered owner of the vehicle to be the driver. Even if the vehicle snapped is not yours (due to false number plates etc.) you have to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are a number of requirements for photographic fines and other speed fines which cannot be addressed in this article and if you want to know what they are then go to www.greedfines.co.za.
A photo fine issued under section 58 of the Criminal Procedure Act must be issued within 30 days of the alleged offence and an AARTO notice must be issued within 40 days. Whilst section 58 notices can be sent by normal surface mail, AARTO notices must be sent via REGISTERED (not secure) mail.
Most people who receive these fines do one of two things – rush off to pay them for fear of being locked up or ignore them. The fact is that neither of these two options makes much sense. You should always address the problem immediately and getting competent advice should be your first action. You can then either pay or contest the fine.
If the recorded speed is 40km/h or more over the speed limit, there will generally not be an admission of guilt fine payable, but a court appearance would be required. Camera fines in this category then fall into the criminal side of speed law enforcement and you are crazy if you do not seek advice!
When stopped for speeding, you have the right to check that the officer operating the equipment is qualified to do so and to view the speed reading. Most people stopped for speeding don’t bother to check the reading because they generally know what speed they were doing (within 20km/h or so).
A fine is then written out and off you go, hopefully not speeding again that day however if you were doing more than 40km/h, the penalty then changes and you find yourself arrested and hauled of to a police cell and imprisoned with all manner of other criminals. As far as the police are concerned, you are no different to any other criminal.
When arrested for speeding, drivers are charged with Reckless or Negligent Driving (Section 63 NRTA) with an alternative of Excessive Speed (Section 59 (4) (a) and (b) NRTA), both of which are criminal offences and if you are found or plead guilty you will get yourself a criminal record.
If you do not get competent representation when you go to court, you are putting the rest of your life in jeopardy as most employment agencies now run criminal record checks on candidates and most companies exclude those who have them. This also excludes you from emigration and many travel visas. What the record is for is irrelevant.
In short, speeding in SA is a very bad idea and you should really consider using the many facilities available at racetracks etc. if you want to see what your vehicle can do.
About the writer and JPSA.
Howard Dembovsky is the current National Chairman of Justice Project South Africa and is an ex-policeman. He has appeared on almost every national radio station, newspaper and TV station in South Africa talking extensively on traffic enforcement issues.
Justice Project South Africa www.jp-sa.org
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