The latest Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) amendment bill was passed in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
According to head of Justice Project South Africa, Howard Demobovsky, the bill brings with it some “pretty ominous provisions with serious implications for holders of driving licenses and/or owners of motor vehicles”.
Specifically, the Act, which will pave the way for the implementation of the points-demerit system, has been weighted in favour of driving traffic fine revenues for authorities, while leaving motorists virtually powerless to defend themselves, Dembovsky said.
“Among the amendments are the complete removal of the courts from the AARTO process, replacing them with a compulsion to make written representations to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (formerly Agency) which is a State Owned Enterprise, funded almost entirely by traffic fine revenues (95.47% of its 2015/16 annual revenue) and to appeal adverse decisions by the RTIA’s representations officers to a newly created tribunal,” he said.
Applications for appeal or review made to that tribunal must be made within 30 days of the adverse decision and must be accompanied by the payment of a fee yet to be prescribed by the minister of transport, Dembovsky said.
The JPSA head said that failure to exercise any of the so-called ‘elective options’ within the prescribed timeframe will speedily lead to the issue of an enforcement order which will block the issuing of a driving licence or vehicle licence disc, along with the imposition of demerit-points.
In addition, demerit-points will now be applied against the driving licenses those who are registered owners of motor vehicles – not necessarily those driving the vehicles, he said.
“The actual drivers who commit such infringements will be able to evade the points-demerit system, by simply driving vehicles registered to juristic entities.”
“While it is clear that delinquent drivers must be taken to task for their transgressions and suspending the driving licenses of habitual offenders may assist in that regard, this ‘end justifies the means’ approach is clearly not the way to go,” Dembovsky said.
“The more the AARTO Act is tampered with, the more it focusses the disposal of what appear to be ‘bothersome provisions’ of law which stand in the way of the revenue generation process and the less it focusses on road safety.”
“This travesty simply cannot go unchallenged,” he said.
Following the passing of the bill by the National Assembly, the amendments will now head to the National Council of Provinces for adoption, after which it will be signed into law by the President.