New driving rules for South Africa in 2021 – what you need to know

 ·5 Oct 2020

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has gazetted new information around South Africa’s administrative adjudication of road traffic offences (Aarto) regulations and the introduction of the country’s driving demerit system.

The 540-page directive states that the new Aarto Act is due for a national roll-out on 1 July 2021.

Following this, the allocation of demerit points will be introduced in three phases to ensure road users are gradually introduced to the implications of the demerit point system.

This will avoid a situation where many vehicles are suspended, and numerous drivers are disqualified shortly after implementation of the system, the Department of Transport said.

It said that the regulations will have a ‘huge impact on the economy’ as well as the social wellbeing of road users.

At the same time, it is necessary to change the behaviour of drivers and create a safer road environment. The phased approach seeks to create this balance, the department said.

Phase one

Phase one will allow for demerit points for speeding, dangerous overtaking, and other hazardous driving behaviour such as failing to stop at traffic lights and stop signs, other road sign infringements, as well as roadworthy offences and infringements for faulty brakes, lamps, etc.

It will also include offences and infringements for failing to drive with a valid driving licence or professional driving permit and failure to have a roadworthy certificate for a vehicle.

Phase two 

Phase two will be introduced once the effect of the allocation of demerit points have been evaluated by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA).

Demerit points will be allocated to offences and infringements of economic significance and include the protection of roads and bridges through overload control, cross border road transport permits and operating licences in terms of the national land transport legislation.

Vehicles that do not comply with the requirements for maximum dimensions and projections will also be allocated demerit points in phase two.

Failure to pay licence fees will also be added to the list of offences and infringements that carry demerit points.

Phase three 

Phase three will add offences and infringements relevant to the failure to update addresses and other relevant information of owners, operators, drivers, cross-border road transport permit holders and operating licence holders.

All offences and infringements prosecuted by means of cameras and parking-related offences and infringements will carry demerit points for the vehicle of the corporate owner, where such owner fails to nominate the driver in terms of section 17(5) and regulation 5 of the Aarto Act and regulations.

This will encourage the owners of corporate vehicles to nominate the drivers who commit offences and infringements instead of paying the notices in the corporate body’s name and failing to identify the driver who committed the offence or infringement, the department said.

“Driving without a driving licence and operating a motor vehicle without it being registered and licences are classified as offences. This principle also applies to failure to have an operator card, cross-border road transport permit or operating licence.

“These documents are extremely important and in terms of section 25 of the Aarto Act are suspended when the maximum of 15 demerit points is exceeded.”

Demerit points 

The Aarto Act provides for a system whereby a person, operator or company (juristic person) pays the penalty and incur points when a traffic infringement is committed.

The demerit points are allocated to the operators and owners of motor vehicles. If a vehicle is suspended it may not be sold or used on a public road.

If an operator or juristic person does sell a vehicle or scrap or export such vehicle, the demerit points will remain against the record of the operator/juristic person and be allocated to the next vehicle the company purchases.

However, vehicles are not punished by the system – only the driver/juristic person is held responsible for the use of its vehicle.

The points will work as follows:

  • The offender/infringer receives a penalty, and in addition to the penalty, they also receive the demerit points allocated to the specific infringement or offence.
  • If the demerit points exceed the maximum points (15 points), a person will be disqualified from driving or using the vehicle for a period of time (three months for every point exceeding 15 points);
  • The points for the offences and infringements range between six and one;
  • The maximum for a person or operator card or a licence disc for a juristic person who is not an operator is 15 points;
  • The maximum for a learner driver is six points;
  • The time value of each point is three months for disqualification or reduction purposes;
  • If demerit points are allocated to a person or vehicle record and no further demerit points are accrued in three months after receiving the previous demerit point, a reduction of one point on the total number of demerit points will be recorded on the system.
  • A person’s driving licence card and the operator card of a motor vehicle must be handed in for the disqualification period;
  • Upon a third disqualification, the licences will be cancelled. A person must apply for a new learner’s licence and driving licence once the disqualification period is over.

‘Juristic person’

Provisions for a ‘juristic person’ who is not an operator were added to the draft Aarto in 2019.

The term refers to companies, close corporations, trusts, etc. that have motor vehicles that are licensed in the juristic person’s name but do not require operator cards.

Typically pool vehicles, delivery vehicles, and vehicles of representatives fall within this category.

Subject to the above, the licence disc of these vehicles will be suspended if the vehicle accrues more than 15 demerit points.

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