Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Number plate chaos

Oh Lord, take me now..!!!

South Africa's traffic departments and metro police prove conclusively every day that, as Charles Dickens wrote 172 years ago, the law is an ass.

Not only that, but they have this arrogant, completely undemocratic notion that we poor motorists are guilty as sin until we spend a lot of time, effort and money proving that we are innocent.

I was talking a while back to a senior traffic cop in Pretoria who told me that one of the biggest problems today is the number of people driving around with false number plates on their cars. He said it amounted to "thousands and thousands".

What fascinates me is the way in which the traffic authorities have decided to handle this problem.

Quite simply, they have made it our problem and not theirs.

So, when you get a speeding fine through the post or for that matter a fine for anything else such as illegal parking, not having renewed your annual licence and so forth as a result of some knucklehead illegally using your number plate, it's no good just ignoring it.

Even if the number plate in question happens to be on your dirty old garden trailer and the photo on the speeding fine is a Ferrari, it doesn't help you to think that maybe somebody in the traffic department will notice. They won't.

And ignoring it will cost you dearly, because the fine will be lodged against your name and next time you go in to renew the annual licence for any one of the legal vehicles you own, it won't be issued until you have paid all the outstanding fines.

What you have to do is go to a police station, get them to sign your sworn affidavit that it is not your vehicle and that a false number plate is being used. Then, you have to fax it to either the traffic department or if you got a summons, to the clerk of the traffic court. Then you have to make a zillion phone calls to make sure they got the fax and that the fine has been taken off your name.

It is always a time consuming and costly exercise.

Make a note
So, if you go through all that, why, you might wonder, can't the traffic authorities just make a note on their computers so next time that idiot who has stolen your number plate gets caught speeding on a camera, they can see in a second that its the old false number plate story again and not give you uphill.

I know people who have received dozens of these false number plate fines and every time they have to go through the same rigmarole.

I asked that traffic cop in Pretoria why they couldn't just log things on their computers and this is what he said. Honestly, I am not kidding. "All the films from the camera speed traps go to Israel where they are processed and the fines printed out and air freighted back to South Africa where they are posted. So unfortunately, we can't do anything about it."

Ok, so maybe you are so angry you want to have your day in court? You want to stand up and tell a magistrate that the traffic cops are costing you an arm and a leg and for him to order them to stop it.

I have a friend who tried that a while back. When he got the summons, he entered a plea to defend and sent it to the magistrates court. On the appointed day he arrived at court in a temper and ready to say his piece. Eventually, the prosecutor came out and shouted to the waiting crowd; "anyone here for false number plates?"

My buddy put up his hand, showed his summons to the prosecutor who took it from him, scribbled "False Plate" on it and then told my mate that he could go home.

"I don't want to go home," he said, "I want my $#@&* day in court, don't tell me go home. I've been waiting three hours.

" "Listen, meneer," said the prosecutor, "if I bring this case in front of the magistrate I will lose my job - he will bliksem me for wasting his time. Sorry pal, just go home and forget about it...."

So, the endless cycle continues and only stops once you have sold your vehicle and some other poor sap starts getting all the tickets. It doesn't even help to die.

Maybe there is a solution. I can't think of one but maybe you can.

3 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

Drive around with NO number plate. Pay a small bribe to petrol attendants and traffic police every now and again.

Anonymous said...

I spoiled myself with a very snazzy sports car a while back. To avoid fines I changed one digit on my number.For example, DDL 134 I changed to DLL 134, and never met a cop with enough Grey matter to notice the difference. They check the license disk and go and stand in front of your car writing the fake number on the ticket. Never paid one single fine for 5 years now

Anonymous said...

Now that's really smart. Thanks for the advice.