New South African road law will allow bad drivers to go to ‘rehab’

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) says that South Africa’s new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act is not punitive and instead will encourage better behaviour on the country’s roads.

Addressing the media in Pretoria on Thursday (19 September), the agency’s registrar, Japh Chuwe, said that the new law makes provision for drivers who ordinarily would have their licenses suspended for breaking the law.

“It is intended to adequately address non-compliant behaviour and contribute to a change in the behaviour and attitudes of motorists to one of easy compliance to road traffic laws,” he said.

“The act proposes to give motorists whose driving licenses would have been suspended an opportunity to redeem themselves through attendance of rehabilitation programmes in order to be allowed to drive again earlier than the prescribed suspension period.”

Chuwe added that the act would usher in ‘a new and radical approach to the management of all road traffic issues and increase safety on the roads’.

“In essence, the implementation of the Aarto seeks to change the behaviour of motorists. The critical over-arching goal is road safety,” he said.

“By implementing the Aarto, we will be able to change people’s behaviour from wanton disregard for road traffic laws, effecting zero-tolerant policies to traffic violations and inculcate a new habit of voluntary compliance to road traffic laws.

“When this is achieved, all road users in the country will be able to fully enjoy the use and benefits of the country’s road infrastructure network,” he said.

Rollout

Chuwe said that the transport minister Fikile Mbalula was currently working on national rollout plans for the Aarto Act, but did not indicate when it will be officially implemented.

Signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa in August, 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.

Read: This is how South Africa’s new demerit system will hit your insurance

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New South African road law will allow bad drivers to go to ‘rehab’