New traffic laws – what’s the real story?

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New traffic laws – what’s the real story?

Speed limits haven’t changed and trucks cannot be pulled off the road during certain hours. These are just some of the rumours doing the rounds, especially on social media. Are these rumours true, and should you be repeating them without having the facts at hand”?

The AA has received several calls a day from concerned motorists over alleged changes to the speed limits, and operating hours laws.  But from these calls it’s evident that motorists have misunderstood the difference between ‘law’ and ‘proposal’.

Let us explain. The Minister of Transport is entitled to make new regulations to the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), or change or repeal old ones. This process starts with the Department of Transport (DoT) issuing a proposed amendment for comment, which is published in the Government Gazette. A comment period follows during which the public can give its input on the proposal.

Once the comment period closes, the DoT will then consider the comments received from the public and then decide how to proceed.

The law-making process is quite flexible, and just because something is proposed in the Government Gazette doesn’t mean it will necessarily become law.

But that hasn’t stopped hundreds of people taking to Facebook to vent their displeasure at what they say are new laws over speed limits and heavy vehicle operating hours.

In 2015, a proposal was published to reduce speed limits substantially. The same document proposed banning heavy vehicles from the roads between certain hours. However, lots of fairly draconian actions are proposed by the DoT, but few become law; they are either rejected outright or watered down in committee.

In the case of the speed and operating hours provisions, neither has been enacted as law and the status quo remains unchanged. The AA has already noted, in written submissions to the DoT that, in our opinion, both proposals are without merit.

But, the so-called ‘Fa
cebook Warriors” continue to spread panic without contributing to the process of law making. It would be more productive for people to make submissions to the DoT during the comment period, giving their views on a proposal, than for them to whip up a frenzy on social media when it’s too late.

People must realise that every proposal is published with contact details, including an email address, so citizens can make their voices heard. People must make use of these opportunities so they can safeguard their rights by opposing some of the questionable regulatory proposals published by the Department. AA

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