Government is looking at harsher road rules after new traffic demerit system signed into law

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

The law promises to bring a number of changes to South African roads – including a new demerit system and the possibility of losing your driving licence for repeat offences.

And, transport minister Fikile Mbalula has indicated that this is just the beginning of more stringent road laws.

“This is definitely the way to go and is not the end,” Mbalula told the Sunday Times.

“There is nothing unusual about this demerit system. People are complaining about it, but you find it elsewhere in the world where people are punished for driving drunk or for speeding.”

The minister said that his department is looking at even more stringent measures.

“It is only in South Africa that you are allowed to become a repetitive serial law-breaker and do not get to go to jail.

“Instead, those who drive drunk and endanger other road users and the defenceless are able to go to court and get away with their crimes by simply paying a fine.”

Drunk driving

This is not the first time that more severe rules have been mooted for motorists who drive drunk.

Speaking to BusinessTech in March, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said that it plans to push forward with the introduction of strict new drunk driving rules.

The RTMC proposed to the Department of Justice that driving under the influence (DUI), speeding and reckless or negligent driving be reclassified in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

This would include changing DUI from a schedule 2 to a schedule 5 offence, which would place drunk driving in the same ‘category’ of crimes as rape and murder.

It also wants arrested drivers to spend at least seven days behind bars before they can be considered for bail.

Aarto Bill

The president this week 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.


Read: South Africa’s new driving demerit system is now law

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Government is looking at harsher road rules after new traffic demerit system signed into law