20 September, 2020

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The Increase In Fines For Driving Offences : Will It Change Drivers Behavior?

By FHA Shibly

FHA. Shibly

FHA. Shibly

The Sri Lankan government has decided to increase traffic fines to Rs 25000 for seven serious traffic offences – owning a vehicle driven by person without valid insurance, speeding, overtaking from the wrong side, driving without a valid driving license, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without a valid insurance, and Rail gate infractions. The police have been told to be stern with offenders. The Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said this initiative is aimed at reducing the number of traffic accidents and not with the objective of raking in revenue for the government.

Now coming to the issue of how it will affect driver behavior in the country. There are always approximately three groups of drivers in any country: the set of drivers that religiously follow all driving laws and regulations, second is the set of drivers that follow rules depending on the penalty in question, and the third group is the one that does not care much about traffic rules due to plain old apathy or affluence.

The first and third group are the combined minority consisting of less than 30 percent of all driving population. The second group consists of the majority of around 70 percent who follow traffic regulations based on penalties imposed. The accidents that are caused are mainly by the second and the third groups which are most liable to commit traffic violations. The existing traffic rules and regulation are mostly aimed at these groups.

Research from established survey firms has shown that drivers keep committing traffic violations because they think the consequences of getting caught are manageable. Hence they think it is fine to ignore traffic rules once a while to get to a place faster or just for the thrill of it. Now if the penalty imposed for a particular traffic violation is too severe to ignore, such as imprisonment or heavy fines, the driver will think twice before flouting traffic rules.

The Sri Lankan government has clearly got the right idea by hiking up the traffic penalties imposed on serious traffic violations, since any motorist would never “ color outside the lines” when it comes to driving or riding! This would change driver behavior dramatically because no individual would run the risk of being jailed just to get to someplace early. And even if there was an option of paying a fine, if the fine is considerably high that would be equally effective at keeping traffic violators in check.

While drinking and driving and Rail gate infractions are grave offenses deserving of the severe penalty imposed by the Sri Lankan government; the rest of the traffic violations that were included in the same bracket for punishment seems a little excessive. There is bound to a general uproar from the public regarding such heavy fines for seemingly minor infractions.

It is always best to grade traffic violations on severity, that way there is a sense of fairness and exercise of restraint when it comes to traffic legislations. Other countries let most
Minor traffic violations go with the proverbial slap on the wrist by adding a few points on the license and letting the violators go (USA).

Conclusion

As long as the government of any country has people safety in mind and introduces fines accordingly, it will definitely benefit the citizens of the said country. If heavy fines and penalties were to be imposed on all traffic violations of non-serious nature as well, it would lead to large-scale dissent among the public. This would lead to repealing of the penalties and wasting the time of the people as well as the government. So the bottom line is to focus on making serious traffic violations completely unacceptable while imposing smaller fines and penalties on less serious offenses. This will ensure that traffic incidents will go down and keep the majority of motorists happy since the roads will be accident-free.

*FHA. Shibly, Lecturer, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    I came last night by bus from Jaffna to Colombo. Although we did not seem to be speeding, from my seat at the front I could see the driver giving the conductor a file of vehicle papers with a 100 rupee note at each of the 4 stops we encountered.

    According to my Tamil driver, at each stop the rate before the raised fines was Rs. 100 per policemen. If 4 police stopped him it was Rs. 400. According to another engineer with a Tamil driver however before the increased fines the payment was rs. 100 and now it is rs. 300.

    So whether the bribes have gone up seems to depend on how the police are tackled.

    I have also been stopped many times on the Jaffna-Puttalam trip with Sinhalese drivers. Except for once when a Rs. 500 fine was imposed, the driver always got away by engaging in friendly banter with the Sinhalese policeman

  • 5
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    Appa Sira & Batalanda Ranil increased the fines to £25k to pay for the monthly increase of £100k allowance to clowns in Diyawanna pond.
    Bloody crooks milking the countries funds. All bar few are the same.
    Hope a ‘Sink Hole’ will suck them all in for good.

    • 0
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      Previous crooks put the country in to debt and we must get the illegal commissions back to the country. Also money from the Bond Scam.
      Our driving on the roads are terrible and we must punish the drivers by suspending the licenses and they must attend a driving retraining programs.Politicans and other big wigs are immuned from the roadside fines.Just taking fines is just to oil the corrupt system.

  • 5
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    All Laws are made, maintained and administered to discipline the people who cannot choose and act according to what is “Right” and “Wrong”. In the case of an act of “Driving” or “Operating” a vehicle, if the person who performs that act is not conscious and consider the others “Right” to USE and SHARE the same “Right”, he/she posses, that person must be disciplined by the use of Law. So, while driving, I have always seen the violators and getting charged, as people who do not know to choose between Right and Wrong. Those who have the morel character and ability to decide what is Right and Wrong, need not get disturbed or protest against the imposition of any Law. What is needed is to BUILD your morel character to USE and SHARE the resources available. Such people are not worried of Laws.

  • 6
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    If you are a lawyer you can get away with any driving offence. All you have to do is show your ID. Increasing traffic fines will not change a corrupt system.

  • 3
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    This is not rocket science . It all depends on enforcement .

  • 2
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    And I’m reading this when I’m sore about having to go to the Magistrate’s Court tomorrow to pay Rs 5,000/= because when I was checked last Friday (the 9th) at dusk, I knew I was doomed. My insurance had run out two months ago – and I’d noticed it just ten minutes earlier and decided I’d get it done on Monday (not realising that it was one of the many holidays). A horrible feeling, ‘cos I really can’t afford to part with 5K just like that, but what to do! Next year it’s going to be 25K!

    This really is true!

    We’ve got back this once famous “Parachute” in to our town. Traffic is his life, impartiality and honesty his obsessions. So, we love the guy in this town! He was here around the year 2000. A really smart looking guy, tall, of sparse build, with goggles and a special-looking bike. He booked District Judges, and politicians. Didn’t care who. He had been assaulted by some Army guys. Then he was transferred to Badulla, and to Vavuniya, by superiors who hoped he would perish there.

    He was Sergeant Bandara then, he is Sub-Inspector Bandara now. That is all! We all know he deserves better! Will the IGP see this – and promote him out of here? Then we can get back to – oh, dear back to what? A very difficult place for traffic this town has become. A Municipality in the hills with only two streets. Why hasn’t the town been planned out of this gully it is in? Going to Colombo one passes through Balangoda which now seems beautifully laid out.

    Parachute doesn’t know who I am, and he wouldn’t care. I have spoken to him only twice, the second time yesterday. There was no escape for me, but I think the guy is admirable.

    I said that I realised that my Insurance had lapsed. I saw the guy motioning to a trishaw to pull over at the main Bandarawela roundabout; I’d seen it happen many times, but at 5.50 p.m. on Friday it struck me that I should check my Insurance. Oh, dear, it should have been done in September.

    The irony is that I had, a few days earlier, got the licence for my “useless” Japanese Hillman Minx, exactly 13 days before it was going to expire on the 14th. Hereafter, I will at least remember that both that licence and my bike insurance are due on the same date: the 14th of December. The car insurance and the bike licence both come in February. No emission certificate for the car since it’s so old, but 3,000/= for the revenue licence is just too much. In 22 years, Ive done 13,000 kms (odometer in kms since the car was made in Japan in 1963 by Isuzu). The Classic Car Club gets me insurance (in the name of the Club) for Rs 300/=, but it really is getting difficult to maintain! They won’t allow us to sell to the occasional foreigner who looks at the car, but they insist on charging too much for road use.

    But back to the bike ride out of town in what I had decided was going to be the last trip before going for the insurance. Half a mile along the Welimada Road, I was motioned to stop. I was told to get myself an insurance valid for the time I was stopped, and report to the Police Station within five days. I went home and realised that there were all those holidays early this week. On Saturday I went in to the town and found that my insurance place was closed. One other company was open, but on Wednesday I realised that getting a back-dated insurance was impossible since it is all computerised. The cop surely knew that!

    I began that straw-clutching search only after some traffic branch cops told me that there was no way out but an appearance in the Magistrate’s Court. And 5,000/= bucks. Parachute was not there. By the time I got to the cop-shed I had actually renewed my insurance by paying 615/70. Why do these guys talk in riddles, though? Finally, though, after I had returned from my futile straw-clutching, an elderly cop explained to me that the thing about showing an insurance covering the time of the booking was meant to look after guys who had left their insurance certificate at home.

    I finally located Parachute at the round-about. He looked at the details and said there was nothing he could do, except put it to the Magistrate on Friday (Thursday, the court being in some other place.) (If not settled this year, it was going to be 25K in January, I knew.) So, yes, a bit too much I feel for me to be paying, but that is life. However, if it is a professional driver, I feel that the fine, as it is now, is not excessive.

    And I am a poor guy! My desk-top can’t be used to write this ‘cos the ADSL has run out of data on my limited connection. This is being typed on a tiny dongle-powered Note Book. But I think that I’d better post this now, so I could, perhaps, show this to Parachute when collecting my driving licence. But my lawyer has told me that my use of the nick-name is dangerous: also, I guess a cop can’t be called a cop; oh well!

    And one does need a lawyer is the common perception. Why? If the fine is a fixed one? Tissa is my pupil, and a very faithful one, too, and wasn’t going to charge me, but then I realised today that he could come to the Magistrate’s Court only by foregoing something else in the District Court. So, I insisted on him nominating a lady who was going to be there.

    • 3
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      Sri Lanka needs all the Parachutes it can find.

    • 3
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      Well I’ve got my driving licence back. Which is to say, I pleaded guilty, almost while walking in to the dock, and was fined the regulation 5K. Then went to the police Station more than half a mile away, and collected my licence about 1.30 p.m. I don’t really think that I can complain about the business.

      However, there was a Grade 13 student of Dharmapala M.V., Bndarawela, who had to pay the same fine despite his now having his insurance, which he had left at home. Let me name Sameera Dissanayake of Aluthwela North, Diyatalawa, before I foget and give you the facts later. We guys don’t get treated half as badly as the innocent villager. I’ll try to analyse all this further when I’m at a desk-top computer; that will be tomorrow in “Colombo”.

      What strikes me already is that I haven’t noted down any case numbers. The receipt was submitted to the Police (why?) together with the “temporary driving licence cum charge sheet”. Had the same thing happened to this Sameera? I advised him to discuss it all with Parachute. Why hadn’t he? Parachute is “sarai” (fierce), he said. Let me see if Sameera gets back to me. I gave him my contact details, and told him that I’d made an initial comment on CT last night.

    • 2
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      Sinhala_Man,

      Thank you for the story.

      Why is he called “parachute”?

      “My desk-top can’t be used to write this ‘cos the ADSL has run out of data on my limited connection. This is being typed on a tiny dongle-powered Note Book.”

      Often desktops also work with a dongle. Have you tried?

    • 1
      0

      Dear Lone Wolf,

      Let me first respond to your specific questions, after which, I feel that rather than getting anecdotal, I think that I must take cognizance of Chinthaka J’s lament and address the more important issues issues raised by Mr FHA Shibly, and Douglas.

      The Parachute nick-name was, I think, given by schoolboys about the year 2000, because of his distinctive appearance: he was very smart and handsome then, and dressed like an aeronaut, although there was no back-pack on his tall, ramrod straight figure. When he walked, in well-polished thigh-high boots towards a “victim”, with eyes firmly focussed on the doomed guy, it was with measured and deliberate stride. His striking presence, and the response of lookers-on was sufficient drama, and he indulged in no other histrionics. He always speaks quietly, politely, and objectively.

      The white helmet was usually on, his mustache neatly trimmed, but what caught your attention was the massive goggles he has on. It used to be said that he had those on because he feared an acid-attack. One doesn’t ask him things like that, and I’m sure that there is a touch of personal vanity in him, that has enabled him to soldier on despite a lack of appreciation from his superiors (many of whom must have been fined by him!). I’ve mentioned three towns that he’s been in; just ask anybody who’s been in those places.

      Yes, I’m sure that dongles represent the technology of the future; it’s just that when I reconnected my 50 year-old number around 2009, so as to get myself ADSL, it went in to a nook where the signals are poor. All this I’m typing in my Maharagama home where the land phone was NOT reconnected. Actually, I had got something even longer on when I posted this comment yesterday, but then connectivity had been broken. That is sometimes the problem still with the dongle. Today I will do a mouse-copy before submitting.

      • 1
        0

        Sinhala_Man,

        Thank you for the reply.

        Can you please take a picture of “Parachute” and post it here? Better first ask for his co-operation or ambush him from a safe distance when he is busy.

        “Yes, I’m sure that dongles represent the technology of the future; it’s just that when I reconnected my 50 year-old number around 2009, so as to get myself ADSL, it went in to a nook where the signals are poor.”

        Have you tried using an extra antenna? Are you sure that your ADSL is the fastest possible? I know that SLT upgraded their connections some time ago without informing the customers of the better new connections that are only slightly more expensive than the old ones that apparently still exist. This was not good customer service.

    • 2
      0

      I’m just beginning to realise just how much our society has begun to accept corruption. Obviously, even with a guy like “Parachute” around the general attitude of the Police towards citizens is that the Public are there to scare, to confuse and take advantage of. I think that I’ve made it quite clear that I have no issue with my being made to pay a fine.

      But I have referred to a schoolboy named Sameera. Sometimes I go overboard and take it on myself to tilt at windmills – as my neighbour for a decade who had read Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote – used to say. I gave the said Sammera a card with e-mail address and mobile phone numbers, but he’s not got back to me.

      This guy, and his farmer-father clearly belong to Mr FHA Shibly’s first category of people: those pious people who make every effort to follow all rules and regulations. However, there is this major element in their Buddhist thinking; they tend to accept even unjustified suffering inflicted on them by the “rulers” – and the average cop knows and exploits.

      When I was copped I didn’t know that the fine was as much as 5K. Had I known, would I have proffered him a 1K note? I don’t know; I don’t think that I know how to do it! Thinking back, yes, I have responded with small amounts when asked for “help” by those who’ve done little favours, and on a very few occasions I have given quite generously to those who’ve really helped. But I’d find it awkward to offer a bribe and the cop, I think knew it. On the other hand, I’ve had many helping me, whom it would be an insult to tip.

      But “my cop” got me confused with this thing about my having the possibility of getting off if I produced proof that I had insurance cover at the time I was apprehended. He knew it was impossible to obtain such a certificate. Perhaps he was getting his own back on me for not having offered the bribe. I’m pretty sure that he knew that I could end up seeking clarification from the higher-ups about law.

      I don’t know who copped Sammera or where; it was after me. But he turned up at the Poice station last Wednesday, after the long, long, week-end that we had. They knew that he had to be let off with a little fine to be paid to the Post Office. But they knew that he was a guy who’d be diffident about speaking to Parachute, so they put it to the Courts. He retained a lawyer. Now, why didn’t the lawyer fight it out? Was it because he didn’t want it to drag in to next year, when the fine could be much higher? No, he was taking the easy way out, obviously.

      What is the end result? We are left with a society where nobody makes a protest even when there is gross unfairness. On the reverse of my card, I had written “Colombo Telegraph” and “Sinhala_Man”. I ought to have got his Mobitel number; perhaps it’s good I didn’t. I’ve not achieved much by playing “Don Quixote”, and perhaps I have no right to do so. Sameera had told me that he could read a bit of English, but not speak. I don’t really think that he’d be able to understand these rather abstract arguments. He knew it was all a sham, but he said “we still have British justice”. That I refuted.

      So, guys like him and his father will continue to be victims of the much hated police. I did ask Sameera to seek clarification from Parachute, but he would have felt there was little purpose after the fine had been paid. He hasn’t even phoned me, although I promised to cut him and continue the call from my end.

      The prospects of rousing people like him are remote indeed. I’ve written so much just to emphasise that the average Sinhala-Buddhist is like him, but then he wouldn’t be using that very political S-B conjunction about himself.

      The cops and the politicians prey on these poor guys!

  • 0
    0

    Sri lanka is not the only that asks for big fines. RS 25000 or Rs 2500 are small fines in comparuson to some other countries are charging. children of Rich parents drive expensive racing cars. they get hefty fines. There are instances they have totalled the very expensive new car. So, fines definitely works.

    Besides, who will pay for Hospital costs, Policing services, roade damages etc ?

  • 0
    0

    All are arbitrary decisions made by the minister when it comes to the ‘amount’ be it allowances or fines. Abuse of power.

  • 0
    0

    The Story of FINES…! Once a host receiving me at Singapore Airport, when asked ‘how is Singapore ?’ he replied ‘Its a FINE Country’. Rs 25,000/- FINE is too high, but once Lawmakers has decide, its BAD to reverse, that erodes the AUTHORITY of a Govt. Who is Protesting ? BUS DRIVERS & 3 WHEELER DRIVERS ! Are they DISCIPLINED, LAW ABIDING people, Majority are not ! Why ? They are indisciplined, harass, intimidate, threaten other Law abiding Road Users, and a threat ‘Life & Limb’. Should a responsible state reverse a decision due to pressure from LAWLESS people ? No Govt should never do that NOW, instead make amendments to say ‘ A FINE not exceeding 25,000/- is in force, leaving the decision for learned Judges. Then what about other offences in our statute ? DANGEROUS DRIVING ? OBSTRUCTION TO TRAFFIC ? etc., If these several other sections of Law are strictly implemented, with Higher FINES, it will bring in considerable ‘change towards better’. But first put your own house in order, Politicians vehicles, State (including Police, Forces etc) should be the first to be corrected, and set the example, hence they should be treated with ‘0’ tolerance.

  • 0
    0

    The best way to prevent accidents would be to build overhead crossings for pedestrians and fining them for not using them, , increased fines for illegal U turns by three wheelers, and cancelation of licenses for driving offences committed regularly.

    • 0
      0

      Overhead crossings for pedestrians

      Won’t work – we are too lazy to use them. All that climbing up and down !!

      Premadasa built a slew of these overhead crossings. No one used them and eventually they became residences for street-people

      • 1
        0

        We all must have self discipline like in UK.

  • 3
    0

    Corruption starts from the parliament.

  • 1
    0

    Yes it will.

  • 0
    1

    Of course it will. Do you think country can run without police?.

  • 3
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    Sinhala_Man: I read your story. That episode you described is perennial to Sri Lankans, so I do not blame you. Don’t you think, it was your responsibility to check all the documents are updated in time? You failed in that and you have to pay the price. I have been driving in a foreign country for a long time and still from time to time. There the most of the documents are dated to fall in line with your date of birth. Then the authorities concerning the Insurance, Registrations, Licenses etc. send you reminders informing you to renew, before three months of the due date. All such reminders are computer generated from the data base built. These data are connected to the Police vehicles and checking for validity is effortless. If you are checked on the road, you are required to produce all the documents needed, such as valid driving license, Insurance Cover, Registration Renewal Sticker on the Number Plate, Ownership Papers etc. and if you fail to produce any one of those, you are issued with a “Fine Ticket”. The Police Officer also while issuing the “Ticket” informs of your RIGHT to contest the case in a Court of Law OR pay the fine through a Bank, send a cheque etc. If you are contesting the ticket, the Police Officer also points to a portion of the ticket that you have to fill and send it to the address printed therein. So see how the procedure has been simplified and lot of waste of time and money has been avoided. Do authorities in Sri Lanka would ever think and plan to introduce systems like these to ease the hazels faced by the people? If there is a WILL there is a WAY. So, if you have the WILL to check the validity of your documents, there is a WAY to avoid all the hazel of wasting time and money. Don’t you agree? I am driving in Sri Lanka and so far never got checked, because I do the RIGHT thing not the WRONG. Simple as that to avoid all that hazel you went through.

    • 2
      0

      Thanks Douglas, for taking my comment from being a boring personal complaint of “injustice” to a more general level, where we act in such a way as to bring about long-term changes.

      Those contrasts with “a foreign country” (I have little doubt that it is a “Western Democracy” where the Police are regarded as friends within the system) and our experience here, underlines the extent to which the Police have become our Big-Brother-enemies. My admiration for Parachute remains, but even he can’t control everything that happens.

      The system here just doesn’t want to help; each individual looks after his own interests. As you have said, the Police there informs you of you RIGHTS; here they aim at confusing you so that they, and the legal profession, get prosperous at the expense of the law-abiding public. It is no wonder that both lots, together with the Medical Profession, the Financial Professions (Bankers, Leasing Companies etc.) and the Political PROFESSION are hated by us all! As a result of our prolonged War, we have been turned in to a Military State.

      This time, two years ago, what were we doing? Most readers of this blog would have been working very hard to replace the earlier corrupt regime; and we believed that we had found a simple, honest, intelligent, committed and courageous man who would change the system. Five adjectives there. I think that only the first three remain justified. He’s chickened out, and now we have to realise that the only replacements that the all important floating voters will see are the horrible old guys, under whom we didn’t even have the possibility of exchanging ideas like this.

      As you have told me, I was absent-minded, and such getting-older-codgers have no business to be on the road. Of course, I had to be rapped on the knuckles and that’s all that Parachute desired. But clearly, he can’t lead a solitary crusade. And that’s the point. He will never be a guy who will get to know a guy like me, or act in concert with any Public Interest group, although he will remain a personally admirable one-track guy.

      Drivers who have obtained their driving licences during the last two decades have to get them renewed at regular intervals. Mine is valid until I drop dead, or until it is revoked for meeting with a major accident. At a certain point I’m going to get senile; and in that situation, which you too will almost certainly reach, Douglas, we are likely to unfortunately insist that we do no WRONG, and keep blaming everyone else.

      I’m writing this soon after seeing your sympathetic observations. I see that “Lone Wolf” has placed a comment after you. I will put my other responses there later, but meanwhile, there are other aspects of this that have to be discussed, such as Professor Hoole’s observation on discrimination, which I’m sure is another major factor in this problem. Also, you earlier observation that a sense of public morality has to be developed.

      As for now, many thanks for the very pertinent observations! – which would have stood out better had you paragraphed what you wrote.

  • 1
    0

    Sinhala_man: Thank you. I understand your valued views. All that is needed is a “Change of Hearts” by all parties concerned. But I doubt it happening in Sri Lanka. The SOCIETY has been corrupted by the Authorities at all levels and the woes continue unabated. I have seen it happening at an alarming level starting from 2010 to date. When can we see a trend towards a change?

    Another interesting incident I like to share with you. This happened to me while driving in the “Foreign” country. I was stopped by the Police Officer. He came to me and said: “Sir, (that was the exact word he used) the Number Plate that must be displayed in the front of the car is missing. That is an “offense” and I have to charge you”. I said, yes. It fell off and it is in the car. He said,(again) Sir, then you must place it on the dash board and drive and get it fixed soon. That was a “School Zone” where the driving speed is 50km and he was checking the speed of vehicles. Since I did not have the Number Plate, his speed gun could not identify the vehicle. He gave me a ticket for 150$ and informed me all what I said in my earlier comment. I went to Courts and explained, all by myself (and not through Lawyer) what happened; but of course “Pleaded” guilty. The Judge asked for the Police Officer’s “Notes” on the incident and he found that he (Police Officer) has not noted my explanation. The Judge, discharged me “Not Guilty” and said: (This is the interesting part) “Sir, you are free to go”. Just see how the word “Sir” is used to address the PEOPLE by the “Administrative” machinery. You know how that “Sir” is used in Sri Lanka. Enjoy and have fun.

  • 0
    0

    After looking at the comments for this article I just thought for a second ‘Goodness me ! How far we Sri Lankans are behind to initiate some long-term solutions for this issue of CHANGING THE BEHAVIORS OF THE DRIVERS?’

    By the way, I mentioned about a long-term initiation to solve the problem in my answer to this same article published on ResearchGate. Pls have a look (obviously if anyone here is interested in finding long-term solutions for the problem). This is the link

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311649926_The_Increase_In_Fines_For_Driving_Offences_Will_It_Change_Drivers_Behavior

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