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E-tolls,cash cows and commuters

16.05.2014

THE elections are over and sadly so are all the public holidays we’ve become accustomed to. The problem now is, we return to the morning rush and chaotic traffic that will ensue.

But that’s not the biggest talking point at the moment. What’s getting many motorists steaming is that Roads Agency, Sanral, has announced it will be adjusting the toll tariffs on the 24th May.

The tariff increase was approved by the Minister of Transport earlier this month said the agency and commuters will have to cough up an additional 5.8 percent on the current toll prices. This is in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

If you’re starting to see red, don’t worry; Sanral said the e-tolls in Gauteng won’t be increased later this month. But it has admitted that the controversial e-tolling will see its first annual adjustment in March next year.

Perhaps Sanral should focus on getting more people ‘tagged’ before increasing prices and adding pressure on those commuters who already pay and have an e-tag.

Adding to Sanral’s burden is an apparent hoax email doing the rounds with a message claiming that money can be collected directly from the bank accounts of people using e-toll roads.

“What started off as an April Fool’s joke, has gained momentum and many people are now concerned that SANRAL is illegally taking money from road users,” says the agency’s Head of Communications, Vusi Mona.

“We want to assure the public that SANRAL acts strictly within the confines of the legislation pertaining to e-tolling,” he says. “We are transparent in all our actions and communicate our real intentions through the media, and directly to the public, on a regular basis.”

It seems what started off as an April Fool’s joke has escalated into a PR nightmare. In the email it was alleged that the SA Revenue Service had been allocated the powers to directly withdraw unpaid e-toll fees from the bank accounts of road users.

Of course Sanral are now trying to do damage control and, let’s face it, Sanral isn’t exactly the most loved organisation in the country. “There’s still a degree of misunderstanding the e-tolling system and unfortunately such hoax reports and e-mails only add to the confusion among road users,” says Mona. This after many people have read the email without following the link to read that it is in fact a hoax.

It’s also unfortunately not Sanral’s first hoax situation as earlier in January false reports arose that alleged roadblocks would be set up and motorists would be forced to purchase e-tags.

It seems like the fear of Big Brother watching and monitoring us is starting to grip the public. People question how Sanral got their contact details, is the organisation monitoring their travel patterns and are the gantries being used to monitor commuters speeds?

The faster technology develops the more likely we are to be watched. And the truth is, when we know someone is watching us we tender to behave better. So maybe there is some thinking behind the madness.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a fan of being watched but the benefits of knowing there is someone watching you should something bad happen, is a reassuring feeling. For instance, should you be a victim of hijacking, cameras would help to identify the thieves and bring them to book.

The cameras will also come in handy when figuring out who is the guilty party after an accident. Dashboard cameras have become a phenomenon in countries like Russia, where vehicle collision rates are so high. The video evidence can then be submitted for insurance purposes. It’s a small way people are trying to protect themselves.

In the UK, as from next year, the European Union plans to impose that every new car sold will be fitted with a ‘black box’ device.

The gadget will help emergency services find crash vehicles as well as monitor their movement.

The device will cost in the region of R1 750 and while essentially tracking the car, it also comes with an SOS button near the dashboard to allow drivers to contact the emergency services should the need arise. And in the instance of a collision, and the airbags deploy, a message will automatically be sent to the emergency services with the vehicle’s location.

We are big advocates of safer driving, but we’re not sure how we feel about our personal lives being monitored so strictly. Because we all know, this personal information like driving habits will be passed on to certain companies.

We want to know your thoughts on having your driving habits monitored. Email us at autodealer@caxton.co.za and have your say.

Article written by Stuart Moir
16.05.2014
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