A remarkably high number of people appear to view the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act and its Amendment Bill as an effort by government to introduce a points-demerit system, and little more.
However this is simply not true, according to the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA), which warned of several other major changes included in the Amendment Bill, outlines in a statement released on Tuesday.
“While the AARTO Act does bring a points-demerit system with it, there is a lot more to it than that, and in fact, the points-demerit system represents but a small part of the AARTO Act’s mechanisms and real purpose,” it said.
“Indeed, had there been any desire to do so, introducing a points-demerit system in South Africa could have easily been achieved decades ago – by simply making a few minor amendments to road traffic legislation.
“The real purpose of the AARTO Act is to migrate the prosecution of road traffic offences – for which an admission of guilt fine may be payed – from the Criminal Procedure Act and the judicial authority of the courts, to an administrative, process driven scheme, orchestrated by a far-from-independent State Owned Enterprise which is funded almost entirely by traffic fines and the fees raised on them,” the JPSA said.
Below are seven of the other major provisions included in the Act.
- Fines may now be delivered electronically, and the onus falls on the driver to pay the fines once it has been delivered to their inboxes.
- Remuneration and allowances paid by the Road Traffic Infringement Act (RTIA) to its employees will no longer be subject to the oversight of the Minister of Finance. The RTIA Board will only need the approval of the Minister of Transport.
- There will be no distinction between a “minor infringement” and a “major infringement”, instead these will now be classified as an “infringement” or “offence” only.
- Alleged infringers will no longer be allowed to elect to be tried in court, but must instead make a written representation to the RTIA. If unsuccessful, the alleged infringer may appeal to the Tribunal, if advised by a representations officer to do so, but only if the appeal is lodged within 30 days and is accompanied by the payment of an up-front fee. If the Tribunal rejects the appeal, the alleged infringer must approach the High Court.
- Even if successful with a representation, a replacement infringement notice may then be reissued, provided that it is served within 6 months of the original alleged infringement.
- Owners of vehicles will now have demerit points applied directly against their driving licences – even if they were not driving – should they fail to nominate the driver within 32 days of an infringement notice.
- Motorists can now be “habitual infringers” – defined as a person whose driving licence has already been suspended twice. At that stage only, will such a person become eligible for a “rehabilitation programme” – which is yet to be defined or explained – to avoid having his or her driving licence cancelled.
“Although the publicity surrounding them has been low, public hearings are currently underway in each of the provinces. Limpopo and Mpumalanga have already held their public hearings, whilst the Western Cape and Free State are currently holding public hearings,” the JPSA said.
“We are not aware of any other public hearings schedules in the other five provinces at this stage.
“Anyone who holds a driving licence or is the registered owner of a motor vehicle should take the time to read and understand the provisions of the AARTO Amendment Bill and the underlying AARTO Act and to participate in these hearings to have their voices heard.
“Even if you consider yourself to be a law abiding motorist, you must understand that the chances of the AARTO Act impacting on your life are high,” it said.
“Once the AARTO Amendment Bill is signed into law, it will be too late to do anything about it without entering into costly litigation, and the AARTO Act will be rolled out nationally in a relatively short timeframe.”