The thought has occurred to me several times that if I knew how many of the motorists I meet daily on South Africa’s roads had illegal drivers’ licences, I would simply not want to drive at all.
Well, according to Times Live, in 2016, 11.4 million cars drove on our roads uninsured. If that number constitutes 65%, then the total number of cars in SA in 2016 would be about 17.5 million. Imagine just 10% of those drivers being unlicensed – that would mean that 1.75 million drivers are let loose on our roads not knowing how to drive, and not knowing the rules of the road! The most interesting question is how many of those drivers could actually afford car insurance but are prevented from doing so because they have chosen the illegal drivers’ licence route?
The car insurance industry has been described to be in a crisis, because of those large numbers of uninsured motorists. The general lawlessness on our roads has gone ballistic due to inadequate law enforcement. To add to the chaos, a possibly large percentage of drivers are driving illegally. The chances that such a driver will know the rules of the road, never mind knowing how to handle a car itself, are remote. This means, in effect, that such drivers could basically be accidents waiting to happen, and are potentially lethal on our roads.
NEED A DRIVER’S LICENCE? – JUST BUY ONE
A culture of corruption has infiltrated into the very fabric of the whole organisation involved in the issuing of drivers’ licences. Dodgy driving schools receive hundreds of thousands of Rands from learner drivers who have been told that unless they pay their instructors to bribe the examiners at the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) testing stations, they will not get their licences. Such bribes vary from between R750 – R1000 per learner driver. If the whole system is corrupt, it means that if you don’t pay, they will just fail you over and over again until the penny drops. It is considered the norm.
HOW MANY ROAD TRAFFIC INSPECTORS (RTI) ARE INVOLVED?
John Schnell, former head of KwaZulu-Natal’s RTI, believes that not all Road Traffic Inspectors are involved. He also strongly disagreed with the Department of Transport 2005 statement that 50% of all licenses in South Africa are illegal.
Some of the illegal activities involved the conversion of forged international drivers’ licences, skipping eye tests, and the bribing of examiners. Schnell admitted that it was impossible to determine how rotten the licencing structures actually were.
A 2013 article of GroundUp mentions that you can obtain a driver’s licence for R2500 at the Lingelethu West Traffic Station in Khayelitsha. Undercover GroundUp journalists found out how easy it is to obtain illegal learners’ and drivers’ licences. One frustrated driver claimed that the whole corrupt system was so designed that any legal attempts at obtaining licences would be totally blocked. People like you and I need to be able to drive, and eventually get desperate enough to be sucked into this bribery and corruption.
In a 2016 News24 article, according to an undercover GroundUp journalist, you can get a learner’s and driver’s licence from the Randburg Licensing Department by bribing between R2500 and R4300.
Well, the above does not bode well for good and skilled driving on our roads – in fact, it’s a disaster in the making.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF HAVING AN ILLEGAL DRIVERS’ LICENCE?
In another 2016 article by Wow, it is clearly stated that if you are holding an illegal driver’s licence obtained through bribery, not only will you endanger your own life on the road, but also many innocent lives of other drivers.
HOW PREVALENT ARE ILLEGAL DRIVERS’ LICENCES IN SOUTH AFRICA?
It is really difficult to find out how many of such drivers are out there, but it is, unfortunately, a massive problem in South Africa. Largely because the existing ‘honest’ system may be quite slow and full of red tape, many would-be motorists become impatient and are tempted to go the short-cut route.
About R20 million is being spent annually to fight this deadly corruption. The police’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was involved in the cancellation of more than 6000 illegal licences, with the arrest of a number of corrupt officials, and several fly-by-night driving instructors.
Although eNaTIS or the National Traffic Information System initially suffered from bad publicity, it is an excellent world-class system that stops corrupt officials from extorting money from the public.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ABOUT BRIBERY?
If approached by someone requesting a bribe, just pretend to be stupid and say you don’t have any cash. Instead, call the Department of Transport’s Investigations and Forensics Sub-directorate on 012 309 3864 or fax your complaint to 012 323 6909. Although you can stay anonymous, it will be best if you provide a signed affidavit, which will be submitted to the SIU for further investigation.
To avoid fly-by-night schools, you must request verification that the school is affiliated to a national body such as the South African Institute of Driving Instructors.
HOW CAN WE VERIFY DRIVERS’ LICENCES?
We can’t wait for the police’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to discover how many fake licences are out there. Anyone’s driver’s licence can be verified for free at this link on the AARTO website. All you need is the driver’s licence number as well as the ID number of the person.
One motorist said that in all the 41 years of motoring in South Africa, his driver’s licence was only checked once at a road block with an instrument that verified the validity of his licence. So there should be many more “points” in society where drivers’ licences are being verified much more frequently.
- The first such “point” is the traffic police at road blocks. But we have a big problem here – how often haven’t you been stopped by traffic police, and they only visually inspect your driver’s licence? With all due respect (and it’s not the police’s fault), this is just not good enough. We need that special “machine” that scans a licence and instantly shows if it’s on the system. Such machines should be available to every traffic policeman.
- Another “point” could be when people have to renew their car licences annually.
- It’s important for employers to check that each staff member that will drive their vehicles has a valid driver’s licence.
YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE CAUGHT
They say the arm of the law is very long and there is a good chance that at some point – may be at a road block, that you will be found to have an illegal licence. You will then be charged and convicted and end up with a criminal record. This is a very high price to pay for a ‘short-cut.’
In the hands of an unskilled driver, a car is a lethal a weapon. You don’t want to add to the total each year of 1 000 000 road crashes, 14 000 facilities, 60 000 serious injuries, and 160 000 slight injuries. The cost of the foregoing to the country is R100 billion per annum.
Finally, having an illegal drivers’ licence means you will not be able to insure your car, as the car insurance companies won’t of course allow that. This means that when you drive on our roads, not only are you possibly about to injure or kill someone, but you will also possibly lose your vehicle in an accident as the repairs may well be beyond your pocket.
So drive legally, and insure your car – you will never regret it!
[Guest Post by Eduard on behalf of Prime Meridian Direct]