Civil rights group, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), says that proposed regulations in the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment (Aarto) Bill “are a cumbersome mess focused more on generating funds than road safety”.
The draft regulations were published for comment in October and are intended to amend the Aarto regulations of 2008, and introducing the country to a new driving demerit system, among other traffic changes.
The Act is expected to be in full effect from June 2020.
Outa has told the Ministry of Transport that the proposed regulations for administering road traffic infringements are “complicated, irrational, unenforceable, costly and aimed at fund-raising rather than road safety”, in a submitted response.
Delivery of infringement notices
Outa noted that infringement notices will be delivered electronically, which it said is an unacceptable risk for motorists who may overlook these.
“The email, SMS or voice message could easily be treated as junk mail or spam or could simply go unopened. There is nothing in this form of correspondence that emphasises the importance of the document to the recipient,” said Outa.
Those who challenge their fines lose their right to discounts, it said of the new regulations. “So by following the regulations, motorists will be punished. This reinforces the concern Outa has that the Act is a money-making scheme,” it said.
Losing your licence
The regulations say those who lose their licences due to the accumulation of the maximum demerit points may be informed by registered post or electronic means, but the Aarto Act says only registered post may be used. This makes the regulation void, Outa said in its response.
It also pointed out that that there are no prescribed standards for rehabilitation programmes which drivers must undertake to regain lost licences.
Appeals or reviews of decisions made in terms of Aarto notices will be heard by a single Appeals Tribunal, run by a chairperson and eight part-time members.
Outa said it believes this will require expensive overheads and will result in a huge administrative backlog.
“The appeal or review process is “cumbersome, convoluted, highly technical, costly and not accessible to ordinary South Africans, has unrealistic time frames and looks like a money-making process,” said the civil service group.
“Ordinary South Africans will most probably rather elect to pay (even if they are not guilty of an infringement) to avoid the administrative hassle than to participate in a process that is nonsensical.”
Bringing in SAPS
The Aarto Act does not include the SAPS among those authorised to issue Aarto fines, but they are included in the regulations, it noted.
“The regulations thus appear to be amending the Act, which cannot be done, and also unconstitutionally interfere with the powers of the National Police Commissioner over the role of the SAPS,” Outa said.
Outa said it listed 22 errors in cross-referencing in the regulations and one missing regulation.
“It is abundantly clear that the regulations were drafted in haste and without due regard to the legal soundness thereof. The way these regulations were drafted makes it very difficult to read and to interpret the Minister’s express intention,” said Outa.
Road safety is not prioritised
“After the Amendment of the AARTO Act and subsequent publicity of the regulations, it is abundantly clear that the intention of the legislation and the regulations is to make money and not to promote road safety.
“What was created was a system that is complicated, expensive and cumbersome and in doing so citizens are being forced to pay the infringements (whether guilty or not) in order to avoid a cumbersome process,” said Outa.
The group said it remains concerned about the high level of road fatalities in South Africa. “We believe that these fatalities are largely due to the poor enforcement of traffic laws, a lack of traffic infringement management and a variety of problems in the management of vehicle- and driver licensing.”
Outa said that the current version of the regulations will not withstand legal scrutiny. “The administrative burden will also make enforcement virtually impossible, making the Act’s purpose of road safety unattainable,” it said.
A copy of Outa’s submission on the draft regulations is here.