Uproar over fines for failing to halt atpuzzling stop sign

The confusing stop sign at the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg which has resulted in many motorists being fined.

Far south motorists who have received hefty fines for failing to stop at a confusing stop sign at the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg near Tokai want the City of Cape Town to withdraw their fines.

Since the Echo reported on the matter, (“Sign of trouble,” Echo January 25) many residents have come forward saying they should not be liable for the fines.

But the City would not budge, saying motorists can dispute a traffic fine that has been issued to them by writing to the traffic department or appearing in person to make representations in respect of the fine.

If the representations are accepted, the fine is reduced or withdrawn, depending on the circumstances.

Alternatively, it stated, motorists can wait for a court date and make representations before a magistrate hearing the case.

While mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, is adamant that the stop sign is clear and in accordance with relevant standards, saying motorists who are fined have no excuse for disregarding it, motorists disagree.

The current road sign indicates that there is a compulsory stop for trucks of 3.5 tons at the beginning of the dual roadway to the left, 200 metres ahead and that automated enforcement by camera is in force (See photo 1). Signs following the first sign indicate that there is a stop sign for trucks of 3.5 tons in 150 metres ahead, (See photo 2). That sign is then followed by a sign indicating trucks should change to a lower gear which is followed by the stop sign in question.

There is no indication that motorists should not use the lane.

Milkwood Park resident, Ann MacGregor was the first to come forward, saying she is willing to let the matter go to court as the stop sign was confusing and only applied to heavy vehicles exceeding 3.5 tons.

She said after going to the Green Point traffic department to view her transgression it became clear that many other motorists also had difficulty understanding the stop sign as they too failed to stop as seen on the footage showed to her.

Sheila Glen Owen, a “swallow” currently living in Kommetjie for the summer, said she had received three fines dated November 28, December 29 and December 31. She said she often uses Ou Kaapse Weg as her daughter lives on the other side of the mountain.

After receiving the first fine it took her ages to determine where she had transgressed and with her next trip over the mountain she carefully looked at the road signs.

“It still seems that the stop sign only applies to heavy vehicles,” she said.

Thereafter she started stopping at the stop sign to prevent further transgressions but not before receiving two more fines on Monday February 5.

She said at the time of the second and third transgressions she had not received the first fine.

“We are not wealthy expats but pensioners who have a house here to enjoy the summers but particularly to be near the family so you can imagine me and my partner’s fury when we received these fines,” she said.

As visitors to the country Ms Glen Owen said they were not familiar with the legal system and proceeded to pay the first fine. However, they are now contemplating connecting to other motorists who have had the same problem and making a stand to the City’s traffic department which seems to be a “money cow”.

Another motorist, Mike Peacock-Edwards, also received a fine on Monday February 5.

He said he tried to address the matter by calling the traffic department but spent 45 minutes on the phone and eventually gave up.

He then went to the traffic department in Fish Hoek and was told they were unable to assist him and that he would have to plead his case in court.

“I am a very aggrieved and frustrated ratepayer at the moment,” he said.

Mr Herron said the regulatory control sign and road markings currently in place at the painted stop-line advise that camera enforcement is possible at this location. Although there is lane signage applicable to heavy vehicles above 3.5 tons, there is no indication of any selective restriction applicable to the regulatory stop sign itself and, as such, it applies to any and all traffic that may be travelling in the reserved truck lane.

He added, given that some motorists seem to have problems understanding the upstream warning signage, the City is in the process of reviewing the signs. However, this does not imply that there is any problem with the validity of the current stop sign.

“Once the advance warning signage has been revised, enforcement of the incorrect lane usage is likely to follow, over and above the automated stop sign enforcement,” he said.

He urged motorists to avoid using the compulsory truck stop lane and to be mindful that automated enforcement is actively in force at that location.