South Africa’s new driving demerit system is now law

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill into law.

The legislation is perhaps known for its proposed introduction of a demerit system for South African drivers, and it is expected to fundamentally change driving in the country.

Some of the biggest changes include:

  • 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;
  • 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;
  • The establishment of a new Appeals Tribunal which will preside over issues that are raised under the new bill.

It is not yet clear when the new law will officially come into effect, or whether parts of the bill will be introduced retrospectively.

Controversy 

In June, the Automobile Association 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 licensing 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. 

You can read the full bill below:

AARTO Bill by BusinessTech on Scribd


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South Africa’s new driving demerit system is now law