Honiara : 21 December 2016
Letter to the Editor, Island Sun Newspaper.
A police media statement in your Sun newspaper this morning, Wednesday, contained comments made by the Director of the Kukum Traffic Office, Inspector Charles Habatia.
Inspector Habatia said, “The total number of Random Breath Test (RBT) cases from 3rd July to the second week of December 2016 was 165, most of which have already been to court and others are still waiting for their hearings.”
He went on to add, “Since RBT was introduced, the number of people caught has not reduced, and it has actually increased. This is because drivers are still being irresponsible.”
The media statement did not mention what sentences had been imposed by the courts for those cases in which motorists having failed a RBT and had been found guilty of driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
If the incidences of driving under the influence of alcohol are not being abated by the tough penalties that Magistrates can impose for such serious driving infringements, as Inspector Habatia’s media release tends to imply, then surely a much tougher sentencing policy needs to be enforced by the courts.
In many countries, Australia and the United Kingdom being just two, there operates a demerit or points system operated by a driving licencing authority or the police force which issues cumulative demerits, or points to drivers on conviction for road traffic offences.
Points may either be added or subtracted, depending on the particular system in use.
A major offence may lead to more than the maximum allowed points being issued. Points are typically applied after driving offences are committed, and cancelled at a defined time, typically a few years, afterwards, or after other conditions are met; if the total exceeds a specified limit the offender may be disqualified from driving for a time, or the driving licence may be revoked.
Fines and other penalties may be applied additionally, either for an offence or after a certain number of points have been accumulated.
The primary purpose of such point systems is to identify, deter, and penalize repeat offenders of traffic laws, while streamlining the legal process.
Taking Australia as one example where a demerit system operates, traffic laws are the responsibility of the various State and Territory Governments.
Demerit points are used in all states and territories, and road authorities share information about interstate offences.
In all states, drivers holding a full, unrestricted licence will be disqualified from driving after accumulating 12 demerit points or more within a three-year period, except in New South Wales, where drivers are allowed 13 points in a three-year period.
Those who can prove they are professional drivers are allowed an additional point. The minimum suspension period is three months, plus one further month for every extra four demerit points beyond the licence’s limit, with a cap in most states of five months (for 8 points or more over the suspension trigger; e.g. 20 points or more on a full licence).
An alternative to initially accepting the suspension, a driver can apply for a "good behavior" period of 12 months. In most states, drivers under a good behavior period who accumulate one or two further points (except Victoria which does not allow any further offences) have their licence suspended for double the original period.
Most states also provide for immediate suspension of a licence, instead of or in addition to demerit points, in certain extreme circumstances. These generally include offences for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or for greatly excessive speed.
In the Solomon Islands the administration of imposing a demerit system could prove burdensome to the police or to an independent driving licencing authority for staffing and cost reasons, but it might be worth the government considering such a system to further deter the rather appalling standard of road traffic offences and especially if repeat offending motorists can have their driving licences suspended.