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Road traffic enforecement in Honiara

VETERAN journalist, Alfred Sasako, writing in the Sun newspaper yesterday, Wednesday 17 May, writes about the ongoing traffic gridlock in Honiara caused by drivers, including bus drivers and taxis.

Mr Sasako cites driver’s lack of knowledge of the traffic rules and blatant disregard for road safety especially by bus drivers who fail to keep their vehicles to the left and often swerve at the last minute to swerve from the right to stop on the left.

There is also some implied criticism of the police for failing to enforce the traffic laws.

I have some past experience of the traffic congestion on Honiara roads and can attest to having witnessed poor driving standards, albeit with the limited police personnel and resources I did try to regulate a better traffic flow and prosecute offending motorists.

I imagine the number of vehicles on the road now exceeds the volume of traffic in the late ‘90s and I’m left to wonder just what has been done over the years, and particularly since the assistance from RAMSI, to equip the traffic section of the RSIPF with the means of traffic enforcement vehicles, motor cycles and traffic patrol cars, to effectively monitor and regulate traffic conditions.

I suspect, reading between the lines of Mr Sasako’s letter, that there is little evidence of police traffic enforcement on a daily basis, perhaps because of limited personnel or resources.

Even if the police were to step up traffic enforcement action, assuming I am correct about the limitations affecting the RSIPF, traffic surveillance it will need more support and understanding from the public. The police should try to build a balance between police enforcement and prevention actions.

How fast these goals will be reached does not strictly depend on the police organisation but also on extensive public support and political readiness to start a joint effort in the preparation of a traffic safety programme

Traffic law enforcement includes all police activities relating to the observation of traffic violations and the police actions to be taken, such as warning, reporting, summonsing, and arresting. Whenever possible, the form of enforcement used should be designed to educate those who have violated the law and others who may be influenced by their example so that such unlawful and unsafe driving will not be repeated.

A successful way to enforce the traffic laws and regulations would be for the police to issue offending motorist with on the spot infringement notices for the most common motoring offences such as those mentioned by Mr. Sasako, but also a whole range of other offences, including having bald tyres, faulty, brakes, broken lights, not wearing a seat belt, driving without insurance or without a license etc.

It would necessitate a change in the Road Traffic Act and even the Police Act, I assume, for the police traffic officers to be able to issue on the spot traffic infringement notices, but worth considering

An infringement notice, common in many countries, is a ticket issued ‘on the spot’ for offences such as I have mentioned

The infringement notice contains information about the alleged offence and fine amount. You have 28 days to choose one of the following options

Pay the fine in full according to the instructions on the notice – usually through a designated office located in the court, or

Request to have the offence heard by a court with the agency that issued the infringement notice.

My work in Western Australia, as a Prosecutions Officer, saw many traffic infringement notices, for both traffic and parking offences, paid within 28 days and very few motorists opted to plead not guilty to the alleged infringements and have their case heard before a Magistrate.

The infringement notice procedure aided effective traffic enforcement without the courts being clogged up with having to adjudicate on relatively minor breaches of the traffic laws.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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