Parliament approves new demerit system for South African motorists

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport accepted the final amendments on the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill on Tuesday (12 February).

The bill will now go to the National Assembly for concurrence and will then be ready to be signed into law by President Ramaphosa.

The amendment bill is expected to fundamentally change driving in South Africa, with some of the biggest changes including:

  • Failing to pay traffic fines can lead to a block on obtaining driving and vehicle licences and an administrative fee – in addition to other penalties.
  • Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the post office, in terms of the amendment, authorities will now also be able to serve documents via e-mail and to send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS.
  • A controversial change to the bill is that the option for offenders to elect to appear in court to challenge the prosecution has been removed.
  • A new demerit system will be introduced. Depending on the severity of the offence, 1-6 points are allocated for offences. If an infringer has more than 12 points, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation.

Criticism 

The amendment bill has been the subject of controversy, with a number of civil society group and legal experts stating that the bill is unlikely to have any of the intended impact on South African driving habits.

“The Aarto Bill will not have the desired effect of enhanced road safety as we have seen little change in road users behaviour during the Aarto pilot project run in Tshwane and Johannesburg over the past decade,” said Rudie Heyneke, Outa’s transport portfolio manager.

Heyneke added that in its current form the bill paves the way for corruption, it is administratively cumbersome, and will make it more difficult for motorists to refute e-tolls.

“The scheme errs by removing the Constitutional rights of a person’s ability to defend him/herself when being wrongly accused of a traffic infringement,” he said.

“Once caught up in the civil administrative system, the infringer does not have the same Constitutional right as they would be afforded during a criminal process, ie right to legal representation and a fair trial.”

Heyneke said that other areas of concern in the act is the financial gain for the government at the expense of the public with regards to the electronic service of documents, and the cancellation of any licence issued in terms of transport legislation when there are outstanding traffic offences against a motorist’s name.

“Outa firmly believes that road safety should be the guiding principles of Aarto’s intent and not a complex administrative system that aims to generate revenue for the state. A more visible policing process is one solution that will go a long way to making our roads safer and more law-abiding motorists,” he said.


Read: The fastest-selling used cars in South Africa

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Parliament approves new demerit system for South African motorists