I've just learnt of a new service being offered online to motorists in South Africa...
This is a new website which generates tailored printable excuse letters that people can send to the authority issuing them with their ticket in an attempt to have the fine reduced or even possibly quashed.
Now I find myself in a position where, unlike the other blogs I've read (here, here and here) , I completely disagree with this service, and I'm not saying this because I'm being a prissy wuss.
This site encourages people to carry on ignoring the rules of the road and makes no attempt what-so-ever to make people stop and think about what they've done or correct their ways: what other message does an "Unlimited Excuses" option convey? This site is going to be used by people who have blatantly and deliberately disregarded the law and have chosen to drive at high speeds, park illegally or jump a red light on the off chance they won't be caught (or worse: think minibus taxis and red lights) and are then too much of a coward to put their hands up, admit when they've been caught red-handed and take their punishment. Unfortunately, as long as people know they can get away with it or get off lightly, they'll continue to ignore the rules of the road.
In a way, this service is just what South Africa needs. It clearly proves that there is a problem with the traffic fines system in South Africa that needs to be rectified. I've commended the efficiency of the fines system before (yes, mum has been told off for her speeding and she did pay all her fines without contesting), but what this site clearly proves is that any lame excuse could potentially save you a couple of Rands, regardless of the fact you have broken the rules. Now I can't say if this is due to overly zealous fining, illegal speed cameras (this happens a lot more often than you would believe), a lack of stringent guidelines on the fines imposed or just a case of an easily manipulatable system but I do know that if enough people use this to get their fines reduced, the government will soon be forced to come up with some guidelines or other means of ensuring the fines issued are the fines paid and close this "loophole". This in turn may have an effect on reducing the number of people breaking the rules of the road.
Now I'm not taking the high-and-mighty position here; if I were in the position to use this site, I probably would (who wouldn't), but it's such a shame the system is so exploitable that people even have this option, especially when South Africa has an extra-ordinarily high rate of vehicle accidents. Here in the UK, if you wish to contest a fine, you'd better have a bloody good reason (whilst you can't see the excuses on F*MyFine without paying, the general topic of each excuse just wouldn't cut it) and a fair amount of time to explain yourself in front of a judge. And even then, chances are you'll still have to pay the fine and get the points on your license. On the topic of points on your license, maybe the government has already thought of this and will surprise us all when it rolls out it's "demerit" system across South Africa, though I doubt it.
This topic is particularly pertinent to me at the moment as my mum is currently lying in ICU in Sunninghill Hospital in Jo'burg, drugged up to her eyeballs, severely bruised and battered with several pins in her leg and a plate in her collar bone after being clobbered by a kid doing around 120kph in a residential area on Thursday evening. I don't believe for one moment that this wouldn't have happened had the system not been so open to abuse, but it may have reduced the chances of the accident occurring in the first place had it not been. Maybe the kid would have thought about the implications of his actions before flooring it.
I just hope that those people that use this site to try and reduce or quash a fine, stop and think about the fact that they are effectively contributing to the continuing feeling of lawlessness in South Africa by driving like they please with "ag man, I'll just go to F*MyFine if I get caught and it'll be alright" in their minds. I also hope they think about what would have happened had there been one of their kids or even themselves standing in the middle of the road instead of a camera hidden in the bushes when they were clocked breaking the speed limit.