South Africa’s strict new driving laws coming in June

 ·24 Jan 2020

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that the new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act will go live in June 2020, along with a new zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving.

First discussed in November 2019, Mbalula has now confirmed that his department is moving ahead with 0% legal blood-alcohol limit, meaning that drivers will not be allowed to drink alcohol and drive at all.

The National Road Traffic Act (NRA) currently has small limits in blood alcohol levels, that allows drivers behind the wheel if they have been drinking and stay within the limits.

These laws differentiate between normal drivers and professional drivers (those drivers who hold professional driving permits).

For normal drivers, the concentration of alcohol in any blood specimen must be less than 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres, and in the case of a professional driver, less than 0.02 gram per 100 millilitres.

However, Mbalula said that, come June, this will be no more.

“We are going to be intolerant to drinking and driving. We’re going beyond saying there’s some percentage – it must be zero percent. It’s going to be zero. No alcohol in the blood – and the law is going to bite with regard to that,” Mbalula said.

Mblalua said that of the 500,000 or so comments his department received relating to the new Aarto laws, only one queries the zero percent, showing overwhelming support for the move.

Police Minister Bheki Cele this week laid out just how bad South Africa’s drunk driving problem is, reporting that over 24,000 people were arrested for being under the influence while driving over the festive season.

This was close to a third of all arrests made over the period.

Demerit system

On top of the new stricter drunk driving laws, the June rollout of the Aarto will also see the introduction of the much-discussed driving demerit system.

Under the new system all traffic fines across the country will now carry the same penal values.

However, not all infringements will carry demerit-points with roughly half of the infringements contemplated in schedule 3 of the Aarto regulations carrying no demerit points at all.

With the demerit system, a driver may incur no more than 12 demerit points without their licence being suspended.

On the 13th point, and for every point thereafter, your licence, operator card or permit issued in terms of road transport legislation will be suspended for three months for each point over 12.

For example, if you incur 15 demerit points, the suspension period will be nine months.

The system has not been without criticism, with organisations such as Outa, the AA and JPSA pointing out several faults and hidden charges with it.

These include a R100 penalty fee attached to each infringement, and having to pay admin fees to contest fines. There are also concerns that the act, in its current wording, could be fined for not paying e-tolls.

Mbalula said that despite the criticisms, road users must prepare themselves for the launch in June.

“We’re going live. We take points, we take away your driver’s licence. The president has signed this into law, and now we’re implementing it,” he said.

Read: This is how South Africa’s new demerit system will hit your insurance

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