South Africa’s new road rules are coming – but there are problems

The Automobile Association has penned an open letter to new transport minister, Fikile Mbalula, pointing to a number of areas that need urgent attention – including the new demerit system.

“The AA believes in a points-based system, and the original concept is good. It will punish the bad, warn the middle, and leave the good,” it said.

The association warned however, that the system in its current form – if implemented – will not in any way reshape the country’s roads to become safer – one of the original benefits.

“Instead, this system seems to have morphed into a better way for revenue collection by authorities, with no regard for safety or proper application of laws. The implementation of AARTO should be prioritised but weighed against a review of its original objectives,” the AA said.

The association said that law enforcement on the country’s roads remains splintered, uncoordinated, and largely ineffective.

“Proper, effective licencing of prospective drivers, a more comprehensive approach to rooting out corruption and bribery at vehicle testing centres, and better application of vehicle roadworthiness is a start,” it said.

“Speeding, cellphone usage while driving, reckless and negligent road behaviour, and disregarding other drivers, are among the main problems.

“Yet these issues seem secondary and less important than checking for expired discs (a task, we believe, which is better managed through the eNATIS licensing system),” it said. 

New demerit system

Department of Transport officials have confirmed to BusinessTech that they have begun preparing for the roll-out of the new demerit system and are waiting for the bill to be signed into law.

The National Assembly voted in favour of the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) bill in March.

With the bill having passed both houses, it will now only needs a signature from the president – barring any hiccups which may cause him to send the bill back for discussion.

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 electronically and can send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS;
  • 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 establishment of a new Appeals Tribunal which will preside over issues that are raised under the new bill.

Read: Drivers warned about travelling on one of South Africa’s busiest highways after dark

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South Africa’s new road rules are coming – but there are problems