These are the traffic laws you probably break every day – and how much you should be fined

An image spreading old road law myths is again doing the rounds on social media sites, claiming that traffic officers are empowered to take drivers who haven’t got their licence on them into custody.

The claims come from an already-debunked post that was put up in December 2016, citing an unnamed DA councillor in the Eastern Cape.

It claims that new road rules have been introduced in the province, where any motorist caught driving without a licence will be taken into custody and fined R1,000 before being released.

It also says that drivers caught talking on their phones will have them confiscated and released after paying R2,500.

The claim of being arrested without a licence is nothing new, and first emerged in December 2015, when the Road Traffic Management Corporation claimed that South Africans would be arrested “on the spot” for a host of traffic violations over the holiday period.

Head of the Justice Project South Africa, Howard Dembovsky decried the “reckless” comments, and clearly laid out what the law says about traffic arrests:

Under the 2008 AARTO Regulations, drivers can only be arrested on the spot for:

  1. Driving under the influence alcohol or drugs. This also applies if you occupy the driver’s seat while under the influence, and the engine is running.
  2. Operating a vehicle recklessly.
  3. Exceeding the speed limit by 40km/h or more. This applies to the general speed limit, and speed limits prescribed by signs.

“Upon their conviction, their driving licence must be suspended for a minimum period of 6 months upon first conviction, 5 years upon second conviction, and 10 years upon third and subsequent convictions,” said Dembovsky.

Hence, not carrying a licence does not fit the bill for arrest – however the associated fine (R1,000) is more accurate.

According to the National Road Traffic Act, driving without a licence can result in a penalty of between R1,000 and R2,000 depending on the vehicle class.

The cellphone fine is a more contentious point. The Western Cape has been proactively policing the use of phones while driving, including the confiscation and release method. The fines in that case are set at R1,000.

Other provinces, including the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal have not jumped on that particular bandwagon, and have kept the issue at the simple fine of R500 – though officials have said they would welcome stricter measures.

Other road laws you need to know about

While the social media post itself contains erroneous information, it is attached to a picture listing true traffic offences and the penalties motorists face for violating the rules of the road.

These penalties, which have been published in terms of the NRTA, are accurate and are outlined below.

Violation Fine
Driving without a licence R1 000+
Failing to produce a driver’s licence R500
Owner failed to licence a motor vehicle R500
Failed to display licence disk R500
Failed to wear safety belt R500
Disregard a stop sign R1 500
Disregard traffic light R2 000
Disregard u-turn R1 000
Use of cellphone while driving R1 000
Causing obstruction / double parking R1 000
Parking in a loading zone R800
Disregarding a yellow/red line R500
Following too closely R1 500
Only one/ No number plate R500+
Overtaking on a solid line R2 500
Unauthorised racing on a public road R3 000
Pass a vehicle in an unsafe place R3 500

Traffic violations are not well-policed in South Africa, and unbeknownst to most motorists (and pedestrians), they could, in theory, be racking up thousands of rands in fines every single time they hit the road.

From ignoring road signs to simply crossing the street, there is a fine associated with every rule we have. Aside from speeding violations, here are some of the more common traffic violations we see daily, that go unpunished:

  • Ignoring pedestrian priority signs and not yielding – R500 to R2,000
  • Failing to yield at a circle – R1,000
  • Ignoring ‘keep left/right’ and other directive signs – R500
  • Failing to vacate right lane of freeway upon signal of other vehicle wanting to pass – R500
  • Failing to indicate – R300
  • More than one motor cycle overtaking a vehicle at the same time – R500
  • Doing a ‘wheelie’ on a motorcycle – R700
  • Making excessive noise due to methods of handling a vehicle (revving, etc) – R500
  • Hooting unnecessarily – R300
  • Causing wheel of vehicle to drag/spin on surface of roadway – R1,500
  • Pedestrians not crossing the road when it’s safe – R300
  • Pedestrians loitering on crossing – R300
  • Pedestrians who do not walk in the road facing oncoming traffic when there are no sidewalks – R200.

It must be noted that the fines above are as published by the Western Cape government. each province and jurisdiction sets its own penalties, in terms of the offences laid out in the NRTA.


Read: Paying traffic fines vs paying bribes in South Africa

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