Thursday, July 19, 2012

Penalty Point System: Beware the tunnel vision

Few residents of Mauritius would resist the call for a "remède de cheval" to rein in the number of casualties on our roads. In what increasingly looks like an ingrained approach to problem-solving, the "permis à points" is now the prescribed panacea. Is it rather the system incubating before us an innovative hub where systems thinking is redundant?

Had Germany, for instance, been as obsessively focused on speed, overzealous brigades would have equally been rallied in speed ambushes on their autobahns. It is not that unwarranted speed does not contribute to road accidents, but it is one among many factors. Namely; poorly trained, if trained at all, driving instructors; shoddy road infrastructure; inadequate, non-existent (such as "Keep left unless overtaking" on dual carriageways) or non-visible road signs and markings; extreme tolerance to reckless behaviour including that of drivers, bikers, jaywalkers and "marchands ambulants" etc. 

As the speed traps are currently set, they are akin to a nasty cash cow meant to replenish the "empty coffers" that raise the eyebrows of the toothless Audit watchdog every year. Instead of genuinely aiming at road safety. With the "permis à points", they may increasingly be perceived as a weapon of repression. Or worse, one of distraction and indeed corruption. In terms of preventive campaigns, the holistic approach, if it is not mere common sense, seems to be lacking too. In a television clip recently about precautions before overtaking, there was hardly any mention of rear-view and side mirrors and the use of flashers.

On an even more serious note, have our "gabelous" themselves internalised the desired driving norms? And is leading by example as ubiquitous as expected to impose the strongest rule of law possible?