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11 November 2011 at 11:09 - Posted by Anonymous

Thousands sign petition to ban blue-lights


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Thousands have joined the call to ban blue-light brigades in non-police emergency vehicles. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams

Thousands of South Africans are joining the call for the banning of blue-light brigades in non-police emergency vehicles.

A petition was launched by the traffic law enforcement advocacy group, Justice Project South Africa, on Wednesday to Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele calling for the ban.
 
Within 24 hours it had garnered more than 2 000 signatories. It came just four days after 18-year-old Krugersdorp schoolboy Thomas Ferreira was knocked over by the official vehicle of Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi.
 
The driver had allegedly jumped a red traffic light, and his BMW X5 collided with Ferreira’s motorbike on the intersection of Paardekraal and Windsor roads. Ferreira is in a coma in the intensive care unit of Krugersdorp Hospital.
 
Driver Semietsi Modomai has been charged with reckless and negligent driving in a case investigated by the Krugersdorp police. Mmemezi, who was reportedly at the back of the 4x4, was whisked away from the scene by VIP Protection Services.
 
Both the premier’s office and the MEC’s spokesman, Motsamai Motlhaolwa, have refused to divulge where the MEC was rushing off to on Saturday morning when the crash happened.
 
Earlier Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said the MEC was “in transit” on an urgent call.
 
On Thursday, communications deputy director-general Matlakala Motloung said the MEC’s office would be better placed to explain that.
 
But Motlhaolwa said he would not divulge where the MEC had gone as it was an issue of security.
 
“There may be a point where the MEC will have to disclose in a court of law where he was going, but for now we will not disclose that,” he said.
 
Justice Project SA chairman Howard Dembovsky, however, said it did not matter where the MEC was going; his driver still broke all the rules around the use of blue lights on the road.
 
According to the National Road Traffic Act, which stipulates the use of lights and sirens, when a vehicle uses a blue light, it has to sound a warning siren along with it.
 
“Also, you may not disregard other users of the road. Operational procedure and training is that the driver needs to slow down to walking pace prior to proceeding through the traffic light. At the fastest, he should have been driving at walking pace,” said Dembovsky.
 
Ferreira’s accident, said Dembovsky, was exactly why the banning of blue-light brigades in non-emergency situations was essential.
 
In his petition, Dembovsky said while there was a provision for an MEC to authorise the use of blue lights, it had been grossly abused.
 
It had caused a “proliferation of so-called blue-light brigades that regularly disregard traffic laws.
 
“The abuse of blue lights essentially means that senior government officials and their drivers are providing a poor example to the road-using public, which goes against the principle of leading by example, and which adds to the carnage on our roads,” said the petition.
 
“Furthermore, vehicles operated by the so-called VIP protection unit have seemingly been granted carte blanche to commit a variety of road traffic offences and enjoy impunity in doing so, regardless of whether they are reacting to an emergency or not.”
 
The petition will be handed over on December 1 and will give Ndebele 30 days to consider it.
 
“If he doesn’t take action by December 31 we will escalate the matter to the United Nations,” said Dembovsky. South Africa is signatory to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety action plan.
 
Dembovsky’s plan is to get 95 000 signatories by November 30. “There are 9.5 million licensed drivers in South Africa,” he said. - The Star
 
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