By Marianne Nghidengwa
THE Windhoek City Police has busted over 2 000 unlicensed drivers since January, pointing to a prevalence of unlicensed driving on the city’s roadways each day that officials fear has become a social norm.
Statistics from the municipal police’s Public and Community Relations department show that 2 474 unlicensed drivers were detected, fuelling debate on licensing issues as potential causative of carnage on our roads.
A total of 3 637 road crashes were recorded year-to-date, claiming 613 lives and injuring 6 281 persons. The increasing statistics ranked the country first in the world in terms of the number of road deaths.
Officials say that unlicensed driving could be attributed to the fact that people are allowed to purchase vehicles without driver licenses and a lack of law regulating car dealers.
Deputy Director of Transport Legislation in the Ministry of Works, Chris Fikunawa confirmed that the law does not make it a requirement for a person to have a driving license when purchasing a car. “This is so because for instance, a person who has resources to buy a motor vehicle may not necessarily be interested in driving a motor vehicle. He can elect to be driven. It is however important to note, that it is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle without a valid driving license which can lead to a fine or imprisonment,” Fikunawa said.
While law enforcement officers only indicated that unlicensed driving represents a high rate of road crashes, the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) said that the number of unlicensed drivers who submitted claims stood at 53 last year. “Considering the fact that 7 333 people were injured and 702 lost their loves in road crashes in 2015, 23 percent of the injured and 26 percent of fatalities were drivers. Of these total percentages, the number of unlicensed drivers who submitted claims at the MVA Fund is proportionately high as a total of 53 unlicensed drivers who were involved in road crashes submitted injury grant claims,” said the Fund’s head of corporate communications, Mona- Liza Garises. Garises added that the increased road crashes affect their operations thus the Fund does not award benefits to unlicensed drivers.
“If a driver operates a motor vehicle without holding valid license, such driver will be excluded from the loss of income benefit. In case of an injury, the Fund will only disburse the acute phase admission cost up to stabilisation. If the driver dies, the Fund will disburse a funeral grant to the value of N$7 000 and the dependents will qualify for N$100 000 in respect of loss of support.
“In order to ensure the safety of all individuals on the road, our country has comprehensive sets of laws meant to govern the actions of drivers and deter relevant offences. Since being in possession of a valid driving license is a responsibility, Namibia’s traffic laws have identified driving without a license as a punishable offense. The Fund therefore urges all drivers to conform to the rules and regulations,” Garises explained.
Meanwhile, City Police’s Constable Fabian Amukwelele said that in a bid to combat the problem of unlawful driving, unlicensed drivers amongst others are normally fined or imprisoned.
“Driving without a license is a source of concern for us. A driving license is not a right but a privilege to operate a motor vehicle on a pubic road. It further creates peace of mind to other road users that the holder is familiar with the rules and regulations of the road. Failing to carry a driving license while operating a vehicle or driving with an expired license renders the driver unfit to operate a vehicle. Besides a fine of N$1 000, such driver will not be allowed to operate the vehicle any further. Failure to carry a license carries a fine of N$500 while employing or permitting a person without a license to drive your vehicle carries a fine of N$1 000.” Amukwelele also said that a total number of 1 414 vehicles were suspended since January, an increase from 728 in 2015
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