A process evaluation of a traffic offences assignment

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Section 59(4) of the National Road Traffic Act was amended as speeding offences increased and played a major role in traffic accidents. This new traffic law requires those who exceed the speed limit by more than 40 km/h not only to be fined, but also to appear in the traffic court, which might result in a criminal record. During 2012 the traffic court in Bloemfontein approached NICRO (The National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders) to develop a diversion programme to which traffic offenders could be referred after having appeared in court for excessive speeding (more than 30 km/h above the speed limit). NICRO is a non-profit organisation that considers crime as a social problem which threatens our democracy, good governance and individual rights. The organisation is committed to creating a safer South Africa where crime and violence no longer prevail, where all South Africans feel safe and protected, and where their rights are respected.

The traffic offences diversion programme was developed to bring offenders to an understanding that their traffic offence is not only a criminal offence, but may lead to the death or serious injury of themselves, passengers and other people. The traffic offences assignment that is to be completed during the diversion programme was developed to ensure that people learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. Currently, the programme consists of several interventions, one of which is a written traffic offences assignment. First, the traffic offender is taken in and his basic details are obtained by a NICRO intake worker, usually at the court. The offender is then referred to the NICRO case manager (social worker), who then conducts an assessment. A diversion contract is signed and a treatment plan is compiled with the client. Part of the treatment plan includes the assignment.

The traffic offences assignment was developed by applying theories about criminal thinking patterns and errors. Piaget's theory of cognitive development, and theories on developmental stages and learning styles were also utilised.

After an offender has completed the traffic offences diversion programme successfully, the criminal case is withdrawn. The NICRO case manager, however, continues with therapeutic services, called aftercare, and tracking services to ensure that the offender does not repeat the offence.

Although this diversion programme has been used for the past two years by NICRO Bloemfontein, the outcome has not been evaluated objectively. The aim of the research was to monitor the practical implementation of the traffic offences assignment and to determine the extent to which the objectives are achieved, in order to use the findings to ensure that an evidence-based diversion programme is in place. By utilising an evidence-based programme, the criminalisation of people who have committed a single traffic offence can be prevented and traffic offenders can learn to obey traffic laws, thus contributing to the protection of the general public from potential traffic offenders.

A quantitative research approach was followed. “Process evaluation: programme monitoring” was used as research design. The population comprised 85 traffic offenders who went through the programme. Sampling was not done, because the population was small (N = 85). A self-administered questionnaire was sent to participants as the method of data gathering. The questionnaire was sent by electronic mail because the participants reside in different provinces and it was not feasible to hand over the questionnaires in person.

GraphPad InStat, a statistical software program, was used to do the statistical analysis. The nonparametric Mann-Whitney test was used to make further inferences. The majority of the traffic offenders were young, white males with a professional qualification. The results indicated that participants had changed their behaviour, thinking and attitude towards traffic laws positively due to completing the traffic offences assignment. However, external factors such as attending court proceedings and the consequences of a conviction also contributed to the participants’ changed behaviour, thinking and attitude towards traffic offences.

The response rate was relatively low, as only 32 of the 85 questionnaires sent out were completed and returned. Internal validity was not controlled adequately. It is recommended, among other things, that the needs of the adult kinetic learner should receive attention in the traffic offenders assignment, for example, by means of a live presentation of the content. The assignment for traffic offenders may be done online, and technology such as automatic voice messages may be used to remind the trespassers to abide by the traffic rules. Under specific circumstances it might also be expected from the offenders to conduct interviews with the victims of traffic accidents and/or their family members to gain a clearer understanding of the impact of traffic accidents.

Keywords: diversion programme; traffic behaviour change; traffic offences; traffic offenders; traffic offender assignment

• Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: 'n Prosesevaluering van 'n verkeersoortrederswerkopdrag.

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