The South African traffic department says that it is at an advanced stage in discussions with the justice department to institute harsher punishments for motorists who drink and drive – including a mandatory 2-year jail sentence with no bail.

Addressing the significant number of road deaths this past Easter, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said that the introduction of minimum sentences for negligent and reckless driving was part of the department’s long-term strategy to curb road casualties.

The idea is to reclassify drunken driving from a Schedule 3, which is less severe, to a more severe Schedule 5 offence, to ensure that those who negligently cause crashes on the roads do not get bail easily and spend time behind bars.

Those convicted under a Schedule 5 offence face a recommended minimum sentence of 15 years in jail. Schedule 5 offences include murder, attempted murder, treason, rape, corruption, extortion and fraud.

However, Maswanganyi said those found guilty of violating the laws should face a prison sentence of at least two years, and the courts should show them no mercy, denying them bail.

Other strategies to curb deaths include amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations, which were published in November 2016. The amendments are aimed at regulating the transportation of persons in the load bays of light delivery vehicles for reward.

The regulations, which will come into effect in May 2017, will assist in the reduction of the number of passengers dying in collisions.

As many as 235 people lost their lives on South Africa’s roads during the Easter long weekend – an increase of 79 (51%) from 156 over the same period the previous year. The statistics were recorded from the 13th to 17th April 2017.

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