Police must have power to act against motorists

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, 27th May 2011

OVER the previous couple of weeks, I have been discussing in detail the issues the Motor Vehicles Insurance Limited ‘Road Safety – It’s Not a Game’ campaign faces in particular areas, such as Lae and Mt Hagen.
Specific attitudes that research alerted us to prompted MVIL to undergo a more focused analysis of these attitudes and their causes.
The road safety issues faced in these areas include a major lack of enforced policing of driving practices, leading to the prevalence of drink driving, speeding and poor vehicle maintenance among all drivers, not to mention PMV and truck drivers. Add to this the commonality of overloaded PMV’s, substandard road and signage conditions and a generally lax attitude towards road safety, and we have an absolute recipe for disaster.
Now here is an easy question – Do these issues sound familiar?
If we bring our focus back out again from these specific areas to all of PNG, the issues are ultimately the same and widespread – and are in fact those that originally prompted MVIL to launch our national awareness campaign.  Speeding, drink driving, and PMV overloading are all key problems targeted by the campaign; road conditions and safety signage nationwide are in need of major work, and previous research has shown that while slightly improved, far  too many drivers, passengers and vehicle owners still consider it to be a part of life to be killed or injured on our roads.
So again, how do we fix the problems? When recently considering the Lae and Mt Hagen areas specifically there are certain changes to legislation that I believe would make significant changes to the driving practices of those frequenting these roads. However as most PNG citizens would know someone who speeds or drink drives, personally frequent a particular stretch of road considered more dangerous, or are complacent in considering their own or others safety on the roads, my legislative suggestions are not limited specifically to single areas or provinces.
Legislation that provides traffic police the power to obtain and use mobile speed cameras and breathalyser units is the most important change that I see needing to take place. With their use adopted by the MVIL Code Red task force to monitor PMV drivers registered in the NRL grand final competition, we greatly hope this will prompt their further use from a national police force capacity.
Further changes need to grant police the power to distribute driver license demerit points and fines for such offences on the roads as speeding and vehicles deemed to be un-roadworthy or not registered. Repeated offences will soon begin to add up, and drivers will have to curb their practices or risk losing their license outright, not to mention the financial pressure the fines will place. And for the most dangerous of driving practices such as drink driving or excessive speeding, an instant loss of license needs to apply.
To me it is clear that the departments in charge of empowering our traffic police  need to make real change a priority – we need landmark legislative revisions that provide our law enforcement  with the power to make the tough decisions on our roads.

Dr John Mua is the Managing Director of Motor Vehicles Insurance Limited, which founded the Road Safety: It’s Not A Game public awareness campaign, and weekly road safety commentator for The National