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Cape Town's red robot rogues

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By Zara Nicholson

More than 80 drivers are fined every day for jumping red traffic lights in Cape Town, but the city cannot install more cameras because courts do not have the capacity to prosecute more offences, although mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the city was prepared to pay R1.9 million a year to fund additional court capacity.

There are 50 speed cameras in Cape Town and in the past year the city has issued about 1.5 million traffic and by-law fines, with about half the fines (740 000) issued for speeding.

More than 30 000 fines were for jumping red lights. On average, 84 fines are issued every day for drivers disregarding red lights.

Responding to a column by Tony Weaver in Friday's Cape Times, in which he called on traffic authorities to install more speeding and traffic signal cameras to reduce fatalities ahead of the festive season, Smith said the National Prosecuting Authority allowed the city to operate only 50 cameras.

The column elicited numerous responses from readers.

Smith said the city was negotiating with the Department of Justice to pay for more magistrates and prosecutors to increase capacity to process offences at the 11 traffic courts.

He said that after drunk driving, speeding and disobeying traffic signals were the second highest causes of collisions and deaths.

"The city has made provision for 100 camera sites which are predominantly placed at intersections with high crash rates. These cameras serve a dual purpose by recording red light offences and speed offences," Smith said.

Deputy traffic chief André Nel said the number of cameras the city could install was limited because traffic/municipal courts could deal with only a certain number of prosecutions.

"Every request for a camera has to go through the NPA and they insist that we only put cameras at high accident locations. We can put in more cameras, but court capacity is a concern," Nel said.

Smith said: "The number of cameras cannot be increased as the NPA will not sign off on any more camera enforcement locations unless the cases can be effectively processed by the courts."

The traffic department also has vehicles with dashboard recording cameras to assist with the prosecution of traffic offences.

Smith said the city would fund R1.9 million a year for additional staff to be appointed at traffic courts.

"The obvious thing now is to make sure courts have more capacity to process these fines. A very large number of our cases are falling off the court roll because of staff constraints," Smith said.

He said increased capacity at courts could permit the city to issue more traffic notices and install more cameras.

Smith said that deaths had consistently been reduced on the city's roads since 2008. Fatalities had dropped from 1739 in 2008 to 1321 in 2011.

Smith added that the city's traffic fine recovery rate was at 40 percent, with most of the remaining fines being withdrawn or lowered by magistrates. The total amount of fines paid each month was around R13 million.

"The point of our speeding cameras is to reduce the number of deaths, not for the sake of revenue. We are curtailed by the number of cameras and we are continuously getting requests from communities to install more cameras," Smith said. - Cape Times

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