The Italian government is raising its speed limits to improve road safety, but should the South African government take similar action?

The Italian government is raising its speed limits to improve road safety, but should the South African government take similar action?

reported that the Italians planned to increase the speed limit on highways to 150 km/h from January 1 2004. This followed evidence that only nine per cent of the country’s road fatalities were caused by speeding.

Italian minister Pietro Lunardi said that higher speed limits would improve traffic flow. He also said that doctors and psychologists believed that people who drove faster usually concentrated more and were more careful.

But, alas, there’s little chance of the South African government following suit. Jeremy Cronin, chairman of the portfolio committee on transport in Parliament, told CARtoday.com they would watch carefully how things developed in Italy, but would not be trying something similar.

“There is a direct connection between speed and accidents in South Africa and we also have to consider the condition of the cars on our roads, and the actual state of our roads. In actual fact, we would more likely drop the speed limit rather then put it up.

“Pedestrians make up about 40 per cent of the fatalities on our roads and this could be brought down if motorists were going slower and could stop faster,” Cronin said.

Cronin said one of main focuses of the committee was the enforcement of law. “We have good legislation in place, but it is not effectively implemented. We need better training and co-ordination,” he said.

Cronin agreed that the large number of unroadworthy vehicles on SA’s roads was a problem and needed to be addressed.

“At the moment there is very poor enforcement and part of the problem is a too narrow focus on speed trapping. We need more inspection of vehicles and monitoring of roadworthiness. Part of the problem is the corruption at roadworthy test centres, but we are cleaning things up with the help of the Scorpions,” he said.

Cronin said one of the important introductions will be the Administrative Judicature of Road Traffic Offences, which includes the much talked about demerit system. “There are a lot of repeat offenders on our roads who are not being dealt with effectively. If they lose points for offences and eventually lose their licence for a certain period it would be more effective,” he said.

But we have been waiting a long time for this system. Cronin said traffic authorities would explain the delay in Parliament next week. But he said it would be phased in during this year.

But back to the Italians’ idea. Cronin said he did not think it would work. “During the late seventies speed limits were lowered by about 20 km due to fuel shortages as a result of sanctions and it was seen as a way to save petrol. It resulted in a significant drop in road fatalities. But maybe the Italians will prove us wrong,” Cronin said.

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