Friday, March 9, 2012

Buckle up your kids or go to jail

Cape motorists could face jail if they don’t buckle up their children while on the road.
The province and the City of Cape Town want to criminally charge and prosecute motorists, including parents, caught with children not wearing seatbelts. In cases of car crashes where there are severe injuries or death, the charges could include jail time. The Western Cape transport department said the case of Jacob Humphreys, who was jailed for 20 years after 10 children died in his minibus taxi, paved the way for prosecutors to get tough on errant motorists. Humphreys jumped a queue at a level crossing, colliding with an oncoming train.
The plan has received support from several quarters. Arrive Alive spokesman Ashref Ismail said: “Seatbelts are absolutely vital. It goes without saying that we would support every possible legal means to clamp down on this.” Ismail said research showed that in countries where motorists complied with seatbelt laws there was a substantial drop in fatalities. In 80 percent of car crash cases treated at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the children were not wearing seatbelts.

Transport MEC Robin Carlisle wants prosecutors to crack down on parents and other drivers who “fail to protect children” by buckling them up as the law requires. Following taxi driver Jacob Humphreys's conviction and sentence of 30 years for murder - after 10 schoolchildren were killed in his taxi when it was hit by a train at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath in 2010 - Carlisle has asked his legal team to investigate the precedent in relation to the widespread failure to strap in children. Carlisle said: “We have been emboldened by the Humphreys verdict, and believe extremely strongly that the legal concept of 'criminal negligence' should be considered by prosecutors in every possible relevant case, when bringing drivers to book.
“Drivers - and this includes parents - who are criminally negligent with regard to their children must understand that they could the full force of criminal law,” Carlisle said. “More children are dying prematurely in car accidents than from any other cause.”
“Do parents leave their sanity behind when they climb into a car with their kids?”
“Between 200 and 300 children are treated each year at the Red Cross Children's Hospital for serious injuries sustained in crashes - and over 80 percent were not restrained in any way. It shows how absolutely clueless SA drivers are.“If they had any idea of what happens in an accident - about the horror that goes on inside and eventually outside their cars - they would never do that.” Legal sources canvassed by the Cape Argus, including within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), confirmed that Carlisle's plan was possible within current legislation.
Carlisle is now planning to request that the NPA takes several hard measures.
First, parents caught endangering their children typically face fines only. But Carlisle will now request the NPA to ask its prosecutors at courts around the province to no longer offer admission of guilt fines only. Instead, prosecutors are to demand that parents and other drivers appear in court.
In cases where the state could prove severe negligence - like allowing a child to stand on a front seat on a highway, for example - the parent or driver could still only receive a fine, but could then carry a criminal record thereafter. Second, in cases in which children who were not strapped in are killed or seriously injured, the actual traffic violation of not buckling a child in would become incidental. Instead, a parent or driver could be charged with one of several criminal charges: “Reckless or Negligent Driving”, “Culpable Homicide” or even - in particularly egregious cases - “Murder”. read more

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