As many as 50 million South African traffic fines may have been cancelled: expert

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) has cancelled a ‘very large proportion of Aarto traffic fines’, according to Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of Justice Project South Africa (JPSA).

Conservative estimates show that as many as 50 million fines may have been cancelled, he said.

The JPSA is currently pursuing legal action in the Pretoria High Court action against the RTIA over the manner in which Aarto traffic fines are delivered to motorists.

Speaking to 702, Dembovksy said that the JPSA originally wanted an order compelling the authorities to cancel all Aarto fines which were not served via registered mail.

However, the legal expert noted that this was now almost a moot point as the RTIA had already cancelled many of the fines itself – despite not informing motorists of the cancellations.

As per the legislation, the JPSA is arguing that personal service, or service by registered mail, was the only way in which to serve traffic fines in terms of the Aarto Act and that a ‘secure mail service’ could not be used.

Dembovksy said that the ‘secure mail service’ is functionally different to the ‘registered mail service’ and does not align with the current Aarto legislation.

Fines scrapped 

This is not the first time that misuse of the Aarto system has led to the scrapping of fines.

In February 2017, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that all fines issued since 2008 that did not comply with the conditions outlined in the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act must be cancelled.

The court ruled in favour of Fines4U, which represented Audi Johannesburg against the RTIA.

Fines4U owner Cornelia van Niekerk said this ruling could affect a large percentage of the millions of fines issued over the past six years.

The Johannesburg, Metro Police issued 5.3 million traffic fines from 2015 to 2016, and the Tshwane Metro Police issued 1.1 million in the same period.

The court found that the RTIA did not comply with the prescribed notification periods detailed in the Aarto Act, nullifying many traffic fines issued since the act’s implementation.

Aarto amendments heading to the president

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport accepted the final amendments on the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill on Tuesday (12 February), which holds some implications for how fines could be delivered in the future.

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.

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

Read: Repeat offenders to be taken off the road under South Africa’s new demerit system

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As many as 50 million South African traffic fines may have been cancelled: expert