D-Day for South Africa’s planned driving rules – including changes for number plates

Interested stakeholders have until today (Wednesday, 20 January) to submit comments on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, which promises a host of changes for South African motorists.

The most widely reported change is the proposed total prohibition on the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on South African public roads.

The bill does this by deleting reference to any alcohol content in the blood or breath specimen of motor vehicle drivers on the road in South Africa.

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.

For normal drivers, the concentration of alcohol in any blood specimen must be less than 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres, and in the case of a professional driver, less than 0.02 gram per 100 millilitres.

Other proposed changes included in the bill include:

  • Providing for the registration and grading of training centres;
  • Additional rules around the  surrender of a driving licence;
  • Prohibiting the use of unauthorised aid during a test for a learner’s licence or a driving licence test;
  • Providing for the registration and grading of driving school instructors as well as driving schools;
  • The proposed introduction of a new ‘provisional’ driver’s licence in South Africa.

Number plates

In an October presentation to parliament, Transport director-general Alec Moemi said that government is also planning to introduce new motor vehicle licence plates under the bill.

Moemi said that the new regulations are particularly important when identifying cars during road accidents.

“We are looking at a new system that will include the embedding of microdots into a new number plate, that will then be regulated.

“Manufacturers, as well as those that print out and issue them to motor vehicle owners (will also be regulated) so that number plates that are forged will be easily identified.”

Microdots have seen increasing popularity as a safety feature on South African vehicles, and are classified as a particle with a diameter smaller than 1.8 mm which bears a unique, optically readable microdot identifier – typically the vehicle’s 17-digit VIN number or another registered PIN.

Moemi said that technology which is currently employed across the country’s highways, especially in Gauteng and Cape Town, as well as at the country’s borders, will be able to scan these micro-dots.

Similar technology can also be deployed to scan vehicles that travel under highway bridges.

In addition to the benefits around road safety and crime, Moemi said that the new system will also allow the government to better understand road usage across the country.

He said that country’s traffic impact is currently calculated by department employees at intersections or by using Gauteng’s e-toll gantries.

“In this regard, these micro-dots will also help us (measure) traffic patterns and hotspots.”

Comments should be emailed here: [email protected] by no later than Wednesday, 20 January 2021.

This is a second call for submission on this bill (the previous ran from 26 October to 20 November). Over 6,900 submissions had been received in the original window but this was seen a small number relative to the driving population who would be affected by the Bill. 

Read: South Africa’s car market crashed to levels last seen 20 years ago – here’s what to expect in 2021

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D-Day for South Africa’s planned driving rules – including changes for number plates