Drunk and negligent drivers who cause death or serious injury ‘will receive benefits at the expense of their victims, who will get much smaller pay-outs’.
Despite negligence and drunk driving being the main causes of the increase in fatal road accidents this festive season, drunk drivers will be able to claim compensation under the proposed Road Accident Benefits Scheme Bill, a lawyer says.
At least 42 people were killed daily on South Africa’s roads between December 1 and January 8, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande announced on Wednesday. He attributed the fatalities to “human factors”.
But under the new Road Accident Benefits Scheme (Rabs), which is before parliament and will replace the Road Accident Fund (RAF), guilty parties are set to benefit.
DSC Attorneys’ lawyer Kirstie Haslam said drunk and negligent drivers would be fully covered in terms of the proposed Bill. This would reduce the compensation paid to accident victims and their dependents.
“The RAF currently compensates road accident victims who’ve been seriously injured due to accidents that they weren’t fully responsible for causing.
“In contrast, Rabs is intended to be a ‘no fault’ system providing compensation to all individuals seriously injured in road accidents, regardless of whether those individuals were responsible for the accidents.
“This will result in drunk and negligent drivers who cause death or serious injury to other motorists, passengers, cyclists or pedestrians receiving benefits at the expense of the truly innocent accident victims, who will receive significantly reduced benefits, if at all,” Haslam added.
But the scheme would not hinder guilty drivers from criminal prosecution despite their dependents being entitled to the benefit, RAF’s Phumelela Dhlomo pointed out.
“Other organs of state are required to deal with criminality related to the motor vehicle accidents, as is currently the case.
“Minister Nzimande announced during [Wednesday’s] press conference that further interventions had to be implemented to reduce the carnage on our roads.”
This included possibly reclassifying road traffic offences, such as drunk and negligent driving, to Schedule 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act. This would mean that those found guilty would receive a minimum criminal sentence.
But Haslam said the RAF was being disingenuous.
“[The RAF] introduced a late amendment saying that if you are convicted criminally of a Schedule 1 offence successfully, like a hijacking, then only in that instance will you be excluded from benefits.
“Generally, drunken and negligent drivers are fully covered.
“This is a ‘no-fault’ system. It doesn’t matter if you step out in front of a car deliberately, drive drunk or recklessly. The instances of not being allowed to claim are very limited,” Haslam added.
The Rabs Bill, introduced into parliament on June 8 2017, was referred to the portfolio committee of transport for consideration.
In November last year, the committee finalised its report on the Bill and referred it to the National Assembly for debate.
The Bill would thereafter be referred to the National Council of Provinces for consideration.