Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
THE Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) last month mounted speed monitoring cameras on various roads in Lusaka in its efforts to curb road accidents.A few days ago, the agency revealed that from the time speed cameras were installed, 45,000 drivers have been booked for over-speeding.
According to the agency, K13.5 million will be raised from the K300 fines slapped on offenders.
Going by the amount of money raised so far, many motorists are seeing speed-monitoring cameras as money-making machines.
Many motorists have accused RTSA of using the speed cameras as a trap to siphon money from them.
The argument by motorists is to some extent justifiable considering RTSA’s lapses in the implementation procedures.
It is expected that when such change is introduced, adequate sensitisation is conducted.
RTSA should have carried out a sensitisation campaign on all media platforms and over a reasonable period of time.
Of course, RTSA did announce its intentions way before the launch but this is not enough to entrench the change in the minds of motorists. There was need for consistent and heightened sensitisation.
Motorists also expressed concern that highways like Kafue Road and Great East Road had been restricted to an average speed limit of 60 kilometres (km) per hour which is too slow for such busy roads.
Alongside installation of speed cameras, RTSA, in collaboration with Road Development Agency, was supposed to put signs to warn motorists of the presence of cameras ahead as well as guide them on the recommended speed limit in that particular area.
It is good that RTSA has come out sincere, by admitting there were some lapses in implementation.
“The roll-out of speed cameras was done amidst improper and lack of signage on the roads, which is something RTSA will seek to correct,” RTSA chief executive officer Zindaba Soko said.
Mr Soko said RTSA has started putting up all the necessary signs on roads that have speed cameras.
He also said speed limits on some sections of roads such as Great East and Kafue roads will be upgraded from an average of 60km to 80km per hour.
Last Monday, RTSA held a meeting with Intelligent Mobility Solutions, the company which has been engaged to manage the speed camera system, to discuss concerns raised by motorists, including the possibility to waive fines slapped on the 45,000 offenders.
However, the meeting resolved that the fines be maintained but the time frame for payments was extended from seven days to 30 days.
While this may seemingly consolidate the suppositions by some motorists that RTSA is using speed cameras as money siphoning machines, the truth of the matter is that the issue at stake here is not money but life.
Given the indisputable evidence that excessive speeding is one of the leading causes of road accidents, the need to save lives by deterring such behaviour cannot be overemphasised.
According to police reports, 487 people died from the 7,713 different road accidents recorded in the second quarter of 2018.
In all these road traffic accidents, excessive speeding was found to be one of the leading causes.
In as much as RTSA has an obligation to enforce traffic regulations and in this case sensitise motorists on the locations of cameras, there is need for drivers to take responsibility and drive cautiously and courteously to safeguard lives.
Drivers should not reduce on speed because there is a camera mounted somewhere, but they should at all times drive within reasonable limits to avoid loss of life.
It is a sad reality that despite alarming statistics of accidents and deaths caused by excessive speeding, some motorists are not ready to give up on the motor racing skills. Unfortunately, when the unspeakable happens, these individuals may not be the only ones affected but many other innocent lives. In some instances some drivers, who out of carelessness, have caused accidents, they themselves have survived while killing innocent people.
This is where RTSA comes in through initiatives like speed cameras alongside fines to deter such deviant and dangerous behaviour.
While some motorists believe the fines should be minimal to allow for easy settlement, this actually encourages deviant behaviour on the roads.
If fines are too low, some deviant motorists will continue committing traffic offences at free will, knowing they can easily settle them.
The fines should therefore be high enough to deter would-be offenders. An alternative of simple imprisonment or community work should be given to those who fail to settle the fine.
For every act of overspeeding or carelessness on the road, life is at stake.
While most people are focusing on the K13.5 million RTSA will raise, they are overlooking the fact that 45,000 drivers fined translate into potential accidents.
Moreover, the K300 fine cannot be equated to the value of lives at risk.
If motorists think RTSA is using speed monitoring cameras as money-making machines, they have the power to curtail such an agenda through adherence to traffic regulations.
For RTSA, there is need to manage the perceptions of motorists out there. The agency must not only be concerned about implementing traffic management initiatives but should be seen to do so in a manner that places priority on compliance and saving life.
Regardless of how implementation may have been handled, speed monitoring cameras, in my view, are already showing effectiveness in as far as entrenching sobriety among motorists is concerned.
On Sunday as I travelled to and from Chilanga, I was astounded by the behaviour of motorists on Kafue Road. It seemed like all motorists were not in a hurry. I did not observe any single case of reckless driving or overtaking. I believe that is the psychological effect of cameras.
From the weekly breakdown of the 45,000 drivers fined, RTSA recorded 21,000 traffic violations in the first week, 15,000 cases in the second week and 9,000 cases in the third week.
The highly reduced cases recorded in the third week as compared to the first and second weeks is evident that the more motorists become aware of speed cameras, the more compliant they are to traffic regulations.
If more cameras are placed and more people are sensitised, curbing road carnages to a significant level is certainly attainable.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA