Traffic police should be reasonable in imposing fines

19Mar 2016
The Guardian
Traffic police should be reasonable in imposing fines

ABOUT three weeks ago the police in Dar es Salaam announced great increase in the collection of road traffic fines amounting to Sh1.09bn.

It said during the period under review traffic cases involved 65,056 vehicles and 4,046 motorcycles.

The huge amount of fines, according to the police, was collected from 36,574 offences which were committed by both drivers and riders.

Though we don’t have comparative figures with previous records, the unveiled figure above does not require any backing to prove it as one of the country’s highest collections of fines by regional traffic police, particularly when one looks at the time frame involved.

But this should not make us skip our reflection on the demeanor of traffic police and certain uniformed ensnares, particularly on how they implicate motorists into a billed offence.

One could think otherwise about the methods and approaches used by police leading to a traffic offence.

It’s like they went to school just to learn how to ensnare someone into an offence so they would be fined, whatever the circumstances!

Indeed, in defence of the huge collection, the zonal police chief acknowledged in a triumphant tone that “our goal is not to make profit by collecting huge amounts of money but to make sure road users obey traffic rules and regulations all the time.”

While we generally treasure the work being done by the police, we unambiguously disagree with this kind of expression. We could point at novel ways in which the police collect huge amounts in fines.

One is a vehicle passing on the so-called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes. It’s indeed an odd disturbance to motorists. Where vehicles used to cross after a green traffic light had allowed them to is now being subjected to an illegal crossing.

Areas such as Mwinjuma and Morocco Hotel on Kawawa road, and Magomeni kwa Shehe Yahaya up to Magomeni Mapipa are confusing spots where traffic police reap huge amounts of money in the form of fines.

Although ignorance is no defence in law, we think that in some instances wise judgement by the traffic cops should come into play.

We would like to think that the traffic police and other relevant authorities which collaborate with the police should have conducted a public awareness campaign.

The campaign should mainly ensure motorists are given knowledge about alternative road uses. In the case of the Mwinjuma-Kawawa roads, for instance, no alternative path has been given – it’s really a problematic situation.

Yet the traffic police are just standing there to trap vehicles which pass under the green lights.

To make the matter worse, there is no warning sign that indicates that a crossing has been prohibited.

This again gives an impression that the catches are done deliberately and that is why Dar police take special pride in the huge amount they collect in fines.

Some rumour has been doing the rounds that traffic police are normally given targets of fines they are supposed to collect on a weekly or monthly basis.

We wouldn’t like to draw the public into such hearsay, considering that even the police force itself has repeatedly distanced itself from such rumours.

But the rumors have been gaining currency with the introduction of a new system by which the payment of traffic fines is done through electronic technology known as 'notification of offences,' which began six months ago in Dar es Salaam region.

Not only does the system simplify police work but it’s also convenient to the road traffic offenders as payments can be done within a week instead of instant payment.

But, it seems that prompt issuing of an electronic notification gives a traffic police officer the urge and opportunity to issue as many notifications as possible, unlike in the past when they wrote the notifications from a book.

For the foregoing reasons we would like to make a plea that the traffic police chaps should be considerate in their issuing of offence notifications in order to bring coherence to their operations.

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