RTSA sets record straight on seat belt law

THE Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) has decided to forge regular interactions with you our clients through weekly write-ups.

With effect from today, we will run articles on pertinent road safety issues every Thursday in this newspaper, the Zambia Daily Mail. We urge you our readers to make a date with us every Thursday. Feel free to send us comments and suggestions through the email address provided at the bottom of this article.
In this first article, we address the requirement for motor vehicles, especially public service vehicles to be fitted with seat belts.
This follows the issuance of Statutory Instrument (SI) No 79 by the Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba, on October 27, 2016.
The SI No. 79 of 2016 is one of the SIs that existed under the repealed Roads and Road Traffic Act chapter 464 of the Laws of Zambia and has now been re-promulgated under the Road Traffic Act No. 11 of 2002.
Despite the repeal of Cap 464, the subsidiary legislation under it continued to have the force of law by virtue of the provisions of section 234 (2) (a) and (b) of the Road Traffic Act. Section 234 (2) (a) and (b) provides as follows:
“Notwithstanding subsection (1), any subsidiary legislation made under that Act in force immediately before the appointed date-
a) shall remain in force unless inconsistent with this Act and be deemed to be subsidiary legislation under this Act; and
b) may be replaced, amended or repealed by subsidiary legislation made under the Act”.
The SI was re-issued in order to align its provisions with those of the current Act and thereby making it easy for people to follow and understand both the enabling and the subsidiary legislation.
The substantive provisions of SI No. 79 of 2016 have remained the same with those in the previous SI save for changes in the drafting style to reflect a more current style of drafting.
So what is the reason for making the wearing of seat belts in motor vehicles a requirement of law?
Studies have shown that road crash injuries and fatalities can be significantly reduced if people complied with the requirement to wear seat belts. One of the areas where the Ministry through RTSA intends to bring about high levels of compliance with this law is passenger public service vehicles due to the high number of people that are transported.
This law will require owners of panel vans, commonly known as Hiace buses, to ensure that their vehicles are fitted with seat belts.
Like the previous SI, SI No. 76 of 2016 provided a grace period of six months for all vehicles that do not have seat belts, to be fitted with seat belts from the date of issuance
However, on 19th April, 2017, the Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that the grace period for the SI to be effected has further being extended from 1st June, 2017 to 31st December 2018.
The amnesty was to allow to allow the ministry of to engage the Ministry of Finance on a mechanism for some tax relief to importers of mini buses fitted with seat-belts to replace the panel vans.
SI No. 76 also prohibits the importation of vehicles that are not fitted with seat belts.
Like the other regulations referred to above, any person who fails to comply with this regulation is liable upon conviction, in the case of a first offence, to a fine not exceeding 1000 penalty units or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months, or to both.
The RTSA wishes to clarify that this SI is not targeted at Hiace buses but to ensure that all vehicles on the Zambian roads are fitted with seat belts by January 2019.
Therefore, government, through the RTSA is working on modalities that will ensure that no financial loss is incurred by owners of motor vehicles without seatbelts.
The process will be systematic as plans are underway for owners of vehicles without seatbelts to have a scheme that will enable them import buses with seat belts at a relatively reasonable affordable cost.
For this reason, the RTSA wishes to dispel unfounded and inconsistent assertions that Government wants to ban vehicles without seat belts because those vehicles will be phased out in a coordinated and cost-effective manner.
The Author is:
Head – Public Relations
Road Transport and Safety Agency

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