Government is in the process of reviving the “No Admission of Guilt” provision for anyone caught driving beyond 151km/h, as well as confiscate the vehicle used, to combat road accidents. However, a local lawyer has warned that seizing vehicles could lead to “serious litigation”.
In a letter addressed to the Office of the Judiciary, dated 31 January 2017, on gazetting of guilt fines, which was seen by this paper, Ministry of Works and Transport permanent secretary, Willem Goeiemann, states that reckless and inconsiderate driving must be “curbed”.
Goeieman believes the re-introduction of the ‘No Admission of Guilt’ provision for speeding will be a direct counter measure to address inconsiderate driving, which is the leading cause of road deaths.
“The Ministry of Works and Transport is, however, concerned about the number of accidents involving reckless, inconsiderate driving and speeding cases must be curbed.
“It was proposed that anyone driving over 151km/h outside an urban area must be subjected to a ‘no admission of guilt’ [provision,” stated Goeiemann.
According to Goeiemann, those found speeding or driving inconsiderately will be “locked up immediately” and the vehicle involved must be impounded.
Moreover the intervention (gazetting of admission of guilt fines) give effect to section 81 and 107 of the Road Traffic Act No.22 of 1999, which makes inconsiderate and reckless driving an offence. The same Act also gives provision of vehicle seizure and “eventual forfeiture to state of the vehicle involved”.
Furthermore, Goeiemann, the ministry and law enforcement agencies believe that the intervention would see a “drastic” decrease in road accident fatalities.
“We hold the view that this intervention will drastically reduce (as in the case of New Zealand) the high number of fatalities on our roads.”
“The ministry would, therefore, request the Office of the Judiciary to review its decision so that the proposal of the 151km/h can be implemented soonest to save lives on our national roads,” further noted Goeiemann.
Furthermore, in the same letter Goeiemann also acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Magistracy to “appreciate the endorsement” of the proposed admission of guilt fines.
Similarly, Goeiemann told the Office of the Judiciary to gazette the fines so that public education can follow-suit.
“The Office of the Judiciary must gazette the fines so that the fees can come to the attention of the public.
“Once published, the ministry will assist with further public education,” added Goeiemann.
Going forward, in a meeting that was held late last year, the ministry and high-ranking officials came to a consensus that the introduction of the “No Admission of Guilt” was a measure to counter speeding and reckless driving.
“Subsequent to a meeting held (late November) between myself (Goeiemann), our Mr Fikunawa, Mr Eiseb (Deputy Chief, City Police) and Mr Ludwig (Deputy Commissioner, NamPol), it was agreed that we should revive the No Admission of Guilt [provision], as a direct counter measure for speeding/inconsiderate driving, which has also proven to be the leading cause of death and injury on our roads, including the destruction of property,” said Goeiemann.
The ‘No Admission of Guilt’ provision was removed because the Magistracy or Prosecution were of the opinion that it “added work load because of the number of cases involved”, the PS disclosed in the letter.
Although defence lawyer, Norman Tjombe, sees the ‘No Admission of Guilt’ provision as an appropriate measure to curb fatalities on Namibian roads, he warned about the possible repercussions thereof.
“From a legal perspective, the confiscation of vehicles involved in speeding or inconsiderate driving might invite serious litigation particularly on the constitutionality of such an act,” Tjombe said. The arrest of offenders must be the last resort for law enforcement agencies,” he said.
“The arrest of offenders must always be the last resort, as it is aimed at procuring that person at court and should not be used as punishment,” Tjombe concluded.
“Considering the high amount of fatal car accidents, it is appropriate that government is seriously considering different measures to curb the slaughtering of innocent people,” Tjombe said.
However, the human right activist said the matter must be looked at holistically before it is put in place.
Parallel to such drastic measures that include impoundment of vehicles and immediate imprisonment, Tjombe said the policing of roads must be improved.
“We should strengthen the policing of our roads, and have better training and testing of the competency of drivers before they are issued with drivers licences,” added Tjombe.
Furthermore, the law under question is only focusing on speeding outside an urban area, it is imperative to take equally harsh measures on those speeding in residential areas.
“Speeding in an urban area at say 120km/h is probably more dangerous than speeding on a deserted rural road, so, equally [stringent] measures for speeding in urban areas must be looked at,” advised Tjombe.
Namibia’s roads have been described as a “killing ground” by many considering the high accident rates.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Namibia is ranked first in the world in terms of the number of road deaths per 100 000 residents. Even though Africa accounts for just 2% of registered vehicles, the continent is responsible for about 16% of annual global road deaths. Africa makes up 12% of the world’s population.
A study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, who head the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, also indicates that in Namibia residents are 53% more likely to die in a vehicle collision than from cancer. The two compiled their study also using WHO statistics. The study is called ‘Mortality from Road Crashes in 193 Countries: A Comparison with Other Leading Causes of Death’.