Government has answered 6 important questions on South Africa’s new driving rules – including fines and demerits

 ·20 Oct 2020

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) has launched a new education campaign ahead of South African upcoming Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto).

The Aarto Act will introduce a new demerit-point system for motorists in the country, with the first of three phases set to launch on 1 July 2021.

RTIA chief executive Japh Chuwe said that the ultimate intention of the Aarto is to create ‘a new positive attitude’ that ‘promotes safety on the country’s roads’.

There should be lesser fatalities that occur which are as a result of infringements or offences caused by the motorists, he said.

In a document published by the RTIA on Tuesday, the agency outlined some of the key changes under the new legislation.

What happens when I get a fine/infringement notice? 

Within 32 days of receipt of an infringement notice, an alleged infringer has the following options to choose from:

  • Pay the fine within 32 days of receipt of the notice and receive an automatic 50% discount of the fine amount;
  • In the event when the infringement notice issued is being disputed for one reason or another, the alleged infringer is allowed to make a representation. RTIA will adjudicate on the merits of the representation submitted. If successful, the issued infringement notice will be cancelled;
  • Upon receipt of an infringement notice via registered mail, the alleged infringer is also allowed to make an arrangement with RTIA for paying their fine in instalments for fines of R750 or more over a period of six months;
  • Elect to be tried in court;
  • If they were not the designated driver of the vehicle at the time the traffic violations was committed, nominate a driver.

All these options must be considered within the first 32 days of receiving an infringement notice via registered mail or issued on the side of the road.

What happens if I don’t respond in 32 days? 

RTIA will send a letter after 32 days of serving an infringement notice. This letter is called a courtesy letter.

It is meant to remind the alleged infringer about the outstanding fines. It carries a R60.00 penalty fee and the infringer would have lost the discount at this stage, the RTIA said.

What happens if I don’t respond in 64 days? 

The RTIA said that an enforcement order will be issued if you fail to comply with the requirements of a courtesy letter, or have failed to appear in court, either following a traffic offence, or after specifically electing to be tried in court.

The enforcement order will be served by registered mail or physically hand-delivered. The demerit points (if applicable) will be automatically allocated.

Motorists will simultaneously be notified of the following:

  • The number of demerit points that have been allocated and recorded against your name;
  • The total number of demerit points that have been allocated and recorded against your name;
  • The number of points left before your driving license, professional driving permit or operator card will be suspended or cancelled.

The enforcement order served on you will:

  • Require payment of the penalty in full, plus representation fees and the fee of the courtesy letter, if any, as well as the prescribed fee of the enforcement order within a period of 32 days of the date of service of the order.
  • Until such time as you have paid the penalty and the additional fees as required in terms of an enforcement order no licence or licence disk will be issued to you or in respect of a motor vehicle which is registered in your name until the enforcement order has been complied with or has been revoked.

How are demerit points allocated? 

The demerit point system has been introduced to penalise drivers and operators who are habitual offenders.

But it also rewards law-abiding road users, as it reduces 1 point every 3 months down to zero demerit points if no further contraventions are incurred.

Demerit points will be recorded against your name in the following instances:

  • When penalties and fees are paid;
  • When you apply to pay in instalments;
  • When you are convicted in court;
  • When an enforcement order is issued.

Every motorist starts with 0 points and the maximum permissible number of points allocated is 15. In other words, a person is allowed to drive until he/she has 15 points accumulated from contraventions committed.

Every point in excess of 15 points results in a three-month suspension of the licence. One point is reduced every three months if no further contraventions are incurred within a three-month period.

A licence is cancelled when it has been suspended for the third time.

If you have committed two or more infringements arising from the same incident, demerit points are recorded only in relation to one such infringement or offence to which the greatest number of demerit points applies.

If you have a learner’s licence at the time of the infringement, your demerit points will only start to reduce when your licence is issued.

If you are an unlicensed driver, you receive no discount and your demerit points will only start to reduce when your licence is issued. If you are caught for the third time as an unlicenced driver you will be arrested.

The types of points you may receive are outlined in more detail below.

Is there a difference between drivers and owners? 

The demerit points in respect of vehicle operators and drivers are recorded separately – even if they arise out of the same incident.

A juristic person (such as a company) who is not an operator receives no demerit points, but pays three times the penalty amount. Proxies cannot get demerit points on behalf of a company.

Will I lose my licence?

If a person incurs demerit points which exceeds a total of 15 demerit points, that person will be disqualified from driving or operating a motor vehicle.

A person who is disqualified:

  • Must immediately hand in any driving licence or professional driving permit to the Issuing Authority for retention by such authority during the disqualification period or must remove the prescribed operator card from the vehicle in applicable cases;
  • May not apply for a driving licence, professional driving permit or operator card during the disqualification period.

Any person who drives or operates a motor vehicle during his or her disqualification period is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

Upon expiry of his or her disqualification period, a person may re-apply for and be issued with a driving licence, professional driving permit or operator card in terms of the applicable road traffic laws.

Read: You could be forced to pay an extra R100 every time you get a fine in South Africa

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