The final report on the so-called Drunken Drivers Bill set to replace the Road Accident Fund (RAF) was adopted in parliament yesterday, despite receiving no support from the country’s major opposition parties.
A transport analyst has suggested the move to the new Road Accident Benefit Scheme (Rabs) will only add to the lack of deterrence measures for risky driving practices in a country, which incur R350 billion in damage caused by road accidents.
Does the Bill really protect the poor, as lawmakers who supported it suggest?
Howard Dembovsky, founder of Justice Project South Africa, suggested the intention to cap claims on medical expenses, coupled with essentially opening up the claim pool to drivers at fault, would be a net loss for government, as well as the poor.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee on transport Dikeledi Magadzi yesterday said the committee moved ahead with the Bill’s adoption on the basis that “no person” was opposed to road accident victims benefiting from the scheme.
The Economic Freedom Fighters and the Democratic Alliance were opposed to the adoption of the report on the Bill, primarily because of its “no fault” clause, which was ostensibly aimed at cutting out the billions in litigation fees currently being incurred by the Road Accident Fund in investigating and challenging claims by drivers at fault.
“The Bill is intended to, among other things, ensure that benefits are skewed towards the victim, rather than sharing them with legal representatives that help with claims applications.
“But also, it will ensure comprehensive medical benefits, timeous processing of claims and introduce a no-fault system,” the committee explained yesterday.
Dembovsky castigated lawmakers for avoiding an obvious solution, practised the world over, including the UK and Zimbabwe: compulsory vehicle and third-party insurance.
Only a third of South Africa’s driving population has motor vehicle insurance, he pointed out.
“I have the same problem with Rabs as I do with the RAF, which is that we [should] require anybody to have their car insured … if you operate a motor vehicle without insurance your car is confiscated and you are prosecuted.”
The benefit of third-party insurance, he said, covered road injuries and damages to other people’s property.