On Tuesday the National Assembly passed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) bringing with it a new countrywide demerit system.
The sudden passing of the bill caught motorists and experts off guard, with the country potentially set to get a completely new set of road rules as early as 2018.
“There are many who argue that the Demerit System is needed to remove reckless and lawless drivers from our roads while others are very suspect of how this might impact on the rights of motorists to fairness and their rights to presumption of innocence,” noted Arrive Alive.
It said that the passing of the bill gave rise to a number of important questions, including whether the new laws are simply a money-making scheme, and how motorists will be able to fight fines they deem “unfair” under the new system.
Arrive Alive approached the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) with several queries and received some important answers for motorists:
How will the AARTO Act impact drivers?
“Motorists will receive their fines fairly quick through electronic means such as e-mail.
“The attitude of alleged infringers to ignore their penalties would result in their driving licenses, Professional Driving Permits or vehicle licences being blocked on the system.
“Infringers would no longer escape liability by simply electing to go to court with the intention of flooding the court system and with the knowledge that such cases may not make it to the court roll as these courts have other criminal matters prioritised.”
The president has not nationally cleared the law, does this mean that it will not come into effect yet?
“The AARTO Act is implemented partially in the jurisdictions of Tshwane and Johannesburg.
“The amendments before Parliament would make the process easier to be implemented by all the law enforcement authorities in the country.
“The President with the advice of the Minister of Transport will set a date when the rest of the Act will be implemented nationally.”
Regarding traffic fines – many motorists believe it could be another revenue-generator for authorities, what are your thoughts?
“The AARTO Act partially deals with the issue of authorities being driven by revenue generation.
“In this regard, once AARTO is implemented nationally there would (be) no authorities setting up roadblock to force motorists to pay their fines or face arrest.
“Since the process may lead to individuals having their driving licenses suspended, the permission as granted by the Director of Prosecutions to set up speed cameras in certain locations would be reviewed and be very strict.”
The Constitution states that every citizen has the right to legal representation? How does the AARTO Act address this?
“It is not clear what the question is about. It is, however, important to indicate that the Act is known as the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences.
“This implies that the intention was to remove these matters from the court system into the administrative process.
“The administrative process requires that the audi alteram partem rule is applied which is embodied through the representation elective option, further that the decisions from representations may be reviewed by the Appeals Tribunal.
“Lastly, section 36 of the Constitution applies to criminal cases and not administrative actions by the state organs.”
Could driver licences be confiscated by officials if drivers commit a number of traffic offences?
“The process entails the suspension of driving licenses of drivers who commit more traffic infringement and pass the threshold of 12 demerit points.”
What advice can you share with motorists regarding the Aarto Act?
“Motorists should exercise caution and abide by the rules of the road.
“In instances where a fine has been received by a motorist, it should not be ignored but the motorist must act by exercising one of the elective options available, e.g pay the fine within 32 days from receipt of such a fine and automatically qualify for a 50% discount on the penalty or submit a representation to the RTIA if such a motorist believes that s/he does not deserve the fine.”
Do you think this is going to be a successful law?
“The law will be successful as the motorists will now realize that there would be consequences for breaking the law if caught.
“The less the road traffic contraventions on the roads the lesser the crashes and consequently the less road traffic fatalities.”