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What a joy to see our dear Mauritius embarking on a new crusade for road safety! More than thirty revised upward fines are proudly announced in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill presented to the National Assembly. Yes, yes, you heard correctly. We will face steeper fines for certain infractions.

Among the notable amendments, the non-wearing of seat belts. If once violators were punished with a slap on the wrist with a fine of Rs 1,000, they will now have to scrape up to Rs 5,000 for their carelessness. As for non-compliant registration plates, it is a colossal jump from Rs 1,000 to Rs 25,000, finally reduced to Rs 5,000 “in the interest of harmonizing the seven offenses with registration plates”, according to from the Minister of Transport, Alan Ganoo.

The increase in fines is necessary, according to him, given the fact that many accidents are caused by “non-compliance with the Highway Code”. The director of the Traffic Management and Road Safety Unit (TMRSU), Dev Nathoo, sheds light on this strategy: “By increasing fines, it will have a deterrent effect. ” But of course ! Nothing like a good whack on the wallet to transform us into perfect little drivers, right?

And as if that were not enough, Cumulative Road Traffic Offenses will also see a boost: we go from 11 to 32 cumulative offenses. A record worthy of the Guinness Book of Records. Four offenses in two years and presto, your license can be suspended. This is something to make the most daring among us think!

However, a quick look at the statistics for 2023 makes us doubt this miraculous approach: 36,400 road accidents, up 2.5% compared to the previous year. Among these incidents, 138 lives were tragically lost, including 57 motorcyclists and 42 pedestrians. This year, it's not better. As of Friday June 21, 2024, we already had 67 victims. And there, a fleeting thought: is it really just a question of fines?

But let's not be cynical. Let's face it: increasing fines is good. It's even very good, if we want to clear our conscience. Except that, and this is where the problem lies, our valiant police must rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, under all governments, it is the legislators themselves who curb the ardor of the police

What a sweet irony to see those who pass laws to increase road safety rush to protect their agents, their supporters and well-connected friends from any sanctions against road safety. And we are even talking about punitive transfers for honest police officers who crack down on everyone without bias. What a farce!

This beautiful hypocrisy of course has its consequences: demotivated police officers, a well-established culture of impunity and citizens who wonder why they would respect the Highway Code if those at the top don't care. Or if a growing number of people do what they want on public roads, without being sanctioned

As a result, our island becomes the daily scene of aberrant and dangerous behavior: burned red lights, zigzags on scooters, vehicles parked anywhere, on double yellow lines, yellow boxes in intersections, zebra crossings… And even on the bus stops, forcing passengers to disembark in the middle of the road with the risk of being run over by careless motorcyclists. And even worse, in suburbs that resemble a “Wild West”. A real circus, but without the safety net. All this in full view of everyone. And right under the noses of the police!

So, what is the point of increasing fines if the police are not involved with dedication and impartiality? Ultimately, it is not the amounts of the fines that are low, but rather our collective commitment to ensuring they are respected.

Let's not be fooled by superficial measurements. Let us demand real enforcement of the laws for all, without exception. This is the only way we can hope to see a real improvement in road safety in our country.

Certainly, taking action is important, but increasing fines without addressing the root causes of the problem seems about as effective as painting white lines over potholes. A holistic approach – involving rigorous and fair enforcement of laws, as well as continued driver education – could be the key to truly reversing the trend in fatal crashes.

Road safety is everyone's business, but above all, it is the responsibility of those who govern us. It's high time they stop their hypocrisy and lead by example.

Ultimately, every accident avoided through real action is worth more than a thousand empty awareness campaigns. In the meantime, fasten your seat belts, not only to avoid a fine, but above all to save lives.

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