How far above the speed limit you can drive before getting fined in South Africa

 ·6 Mar 2024

South Africa’s new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) driving laws give some leniency when it comes to speed limits in the country – allowing for a 10kmph ‘grace’ before fines and demerit points kick in.

The Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) are in the process of rolling out the new driving system across the country.

Phase 1 of the AARTO rollout started back in 2021 and has already been completed. Phase 2 – which is supposed to include the introduction of AARTO in 69 municipalities across the country – was expected to begin in February 2024 but has been postponed until further notice.

Phase 3 will see the phasing in of AARTO in the remaining 144 jurisdictions, and phase 4 is the final step that will see the introduction of the points demerit system and the rehabilitation programme.

Despite delays, the department has not mentioned any change to the target of having the system fully implemented by July 2024.

Demerit system

The AARTO system is not entirely new to South Africa, with the road rules having been in effect in the City of Joburg and City of Tshwane since 2008.

The points demerit system, however, is entirely new, and will be a significant change to all motorists in the country.

Under the demerit system, vehicles are not punished by the system, but the operator/juristic person is held responsible for the use of the vehicle.

Upon implementation of the demerit system, everyone will commence with zero points, and each infringement will carry a ‘demerit point’ value that accrues on the licence of whoever was operating the vehicle at the time of the violation.

If the demerit points exceed the maximum 15 points, a person, operator or juristic person who is not an operator will be disqualified from driving or using the vehicle for three months for every point surpassing the 15 points.

There are well over 2,000 different violations for which demerit points apply. According to the available details on demerit points and penalties – as scheduled for Joburg and Tshwane – points for offences and infringements range between one and six.

What’s notable is that the fines and demerit points in the schedules only kick in when travelling more than 10kmph over the speed limit in each zone.

According to TopAuto, this 10kmph ‘grace’ is in place to accommodate minor calibration errors in vehicle speedometers between the many manufacturers of cars on the road and to avoid prosecuting persons for exceeding the speed limit by only 2 or 3km/h and clogging up the legal system.

The 10km/h grace does not apply to average speed-over-distance prosecutions, though, which is more accurate and does not need to account for manufacturer or camera differences.

In practice, this means that the minimum fine of R250 is only applicable when a driver is travelling between 71kmph and 75kmph in a 60kmph zone, for example.

The first instance of a demerit point (and R500 fine) kicks in when the motorist travels between 76kmph and 80kmph in a 60kmph zone. This same pattern is apparent across the schedules.

Demerits40 zone60 zone80 zone100 zone120 zoneFine
051 to 5571 to 7591 to 95111 to 115131 to 135R250
156 to 6076 to 8096 to 100116 to 120136 to 140R500
261 to 6581 to 85101 to 105121 to 125141 to 145R750
366 to 7086 to 90106 to 110126 to 130146 to 150R1 000
4 71 to 7591 to 95111 to 115131 to 135151 to 155R1 250
576 to 8096 to 100116 to 120136 to 140156 to 160R1 500
*** at this level it becomes a criminal offence and the driver will face charges

How fines will work

Getting fined under the AARTO is also different. You can get one of two kinds of fines under AARTO, regardless of the traffic violation:

  • A Section 56 notice is given to you by a traffic officer, usually for a moving violation. It has a court date on it.
  • A Section 341 notice is sent to a motorist by post for violations caught on traffic cameras or for traffic tickets issued in the absence of the motorists (for example, for an expired licence disc). It does not have a court date on it but is a first notice before summons. The Traffic Department will issue a second notice before summons before actually issuing the summons.

It is important to understand the major differences between AARTO and fines issued by local or provincial authorities.

In the latter cases, the fines are dealt with as criminal matters through the courts, while AARTO decriminalises speeding and makes it an administrative procedure.

In the former case, you are innocent until proven guilty, but under AARTO, you are guilty until you prove your innocence.

This is how the fines are handled:

Step 1 – Infringement Notice

Minor and major infringements are dealt with in accordance with the administrative procedures as prescribed in the AARTO Act.

If a person is alleged to have committed an infringement, the traffic officer will issue an Infringement Notice.

Hand-written infringement notices are handed out by traffic officers and will eventually be replaced by electronic devices.

Camera infringements are electronically generated by eNatis and sent by mail. At this point, the fine amount has a 50% discount attached if paid within 32 days.

Step 2 – Courtesy letter

A courtesy letter is mailed if the fine is not paid within the first 32 days that the infringement notice is issued. At this point, the full amount must now be paid, plus administration fees.

Failure to comply with the requirements of the Courtesy Letter will result in the issuing of an Enforcement Order.

Step 3 – Enforcement Order

By failing to comply with the Courtesy Letter or appearing in court after electing to appear in court, an offender will be issued an Enforcement Order by mail.

Failure to comply with the requirements of the Enforcement Order within 32 days will result in a Warrant being issued to recover the applicable penalty and fees.

Until such time as the penalty and the additional fees have been paid, no driving licence, professional driving permit, or vehicle licence disc will be issued that is registered in your name until the Enforcement Order has been complied with or revoked.

Step 4 – Warrant of Execution

If the Enforcement Order is not complied with within 32 days, a Warrant will be issued and handed to a Sheriff for execution.

This may include seizing your movable property, defacing your driving licence and licence disc, or reporting you to a credit bureau.

Read: Warning for municipalities over South Africa’s new driving laws

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