Saturday, July 6, 2013

New Law: Using mobile phones while driving will send you to jail - FRSC

Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Osita Chidoka announced in Abuja last Saturday that the era of collecting fines from motorists who violate road safety laws of the country had gone.

The law may push many errant motorists to prison, even though on the list of offences and penalties posted on the FRSC website, the offence currently attracts a N4,000 fine.

Its spokesperson, Mr. Jonas Agwu, said the duty of the corps was to ensure the total eradication of deaths brought about by such prohibited practices.

He explained that the decision to introduce the prison dimension came about when it became clear that many motorists would rather be caught and pay the prescribed fine than obey the law.

He said, "The typical Nigerian motorist will ask you, 'How much is your fine? Let me pay and go'. What many do not realise is that getting them to pay the fine is not the issue here, but ensuring that they do not endanger their own lives and those of others.

"We realise that in order to effectively put such motorists in check, it is necessary to get the judiciary involved. This is because the average Nigerian does not want his reputation dented by a conviction. A conviction by a court of law, even when it has to do with a mere traffic offence, may hamper one's future ambtitions."

Mr. Agwu did not want to make a categorical statement on the length of sentences for violators of the telephone rule. According to him, the courts would have to use their discretion.

He said, "The reason we are not going to prescribe such is that sometimes a violator may be picked up while exhibiting bad behaviour on the road. When such a person gets to the court, he or she may become humble. This may become part of what would be used by the judge or magstrate to deliver the sentence. The violator may go to jail for a few months, weeks or even days.

"Even when the court asks the violator to pay a fine if found guilty, the purpose of deterrence which the FRSC seek will be fulfilled. A motorist may not be jailed.

"You need to understand that being asked to pay a fine at an FRSC office is different from being asked to pay a fine by a court, after being found guilty. The conviction enters court records and dents the person's imagine for ever."

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