3 major new driving changes planned for South Africa

 ·4 Jun 2020

The Department of Transport plans to introduce a number of changes pertinent to motorists, and as part of its effort to make the country’s roads safer.

This includes new rules around drunk driving as well as the official introduction of the country’s demerit system.

The changes are outlined in more detail below.

Drunk driving

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula introduced the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill to parliament on Friday (29 May).

The bill proposes a host of changes to South Africa’s transport industry – including a new zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving.

The bill introduces a total prohibition for the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on public roads in the country.

It does this by deleting reference to any alcohol content in the blood or breath specimen of drivers on the road.

The National Road Traffic Act (NRA) currently enables those who have consumed alcohol to get behind the wheel provided they are under the blood alcohol limit.

Demerit system

On Tuesday (2 June), the Department of Transport announced the delay of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act due to the coronavirus.

The act was signed into law by president Cyril Ramaphosa in August 2019 and although no date was officially promulgated, it was intended to take national effect by mid-2020.

It aims to improve driving on the country’s roads through the introduction of a new demerit system for South African drivers.

Depending on the severity of the offence,  points are allocated for offences. If an infringer passes a points threshold, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation.

While the system was expected to be introduced in June, the Department of Transport said that the coronavirus has had a severe impact on the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) – which would be responsible for the new system.

“The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak has severely compromised the capacity of the RTIA, which is the entity responsible for the rollout of Aarto, as well as other prerequisites determining the rollout date and has resulted in a severe loss of revenue to support the preparatory activities.

“For this reason, RTIA is in no position at this stage, to successfully conduct the national rollout of Aarto. The situation will be reviewed in due course for further determination as to when the rollout date will be promulgated,” it said.

New licences

The Department of Transport plans to introduce updated driver’s licence cards within the next two years.

In a May parliamentary presentation, the department said it is envisaged that a new durable driving licence card will be introduced by the end of 2021/22.

This card will boast improved security features and will be ‘ISO 18013 compliant’ – meaning it will be internationally accepted.

The Department of Transport said that the modernisation of the DLCA will also allow for a number of other improvements, including:

  • Reducing the production turnaround from 12 days to 7 days;
  • Introducing an electronic/mobile driving licence;
  • Creating a platform for introducing e-services;
  • Re-engineering of the DLCA process to allow for automation of support services and the elimination of the manual process.

Read: Joburg and Cape Town car licence renewals under level 3 lockdown – how it will work

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