What SA traffic law says you can be arrested for on the spot

 ·23 Dec 2015

Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) boss Makhosini Msibi has drawn criticism after issuing a warning yesterday that South African motorists will be arrested on the spot for several traffic offences this festive season.

Among the offences listed were failing to wear a seatbelt, and driving without a license or expired vehicle license disc.

“Make no mistake, we are going to be arresting people,” Msibi said.

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) chairman Howard Dembovsky responded to Msibi’s announcement, saying that it was reckless for a person of his seniority to be making such outrageous, emotional statements.

What you can actually be arrested for

To clarify things, the JPSA provided a list of traffic offences that are criminal under the 2008 AARTO Regulations. These crimes can be summarised as follows.

  1. Driving under the influence alcohol or drugs. This also applies if you occupy the driver’s seat while under the influence, and the engine is running.
  2. Operating a vehicle recklessly.
  3. Exceeding the speed limit by 40km/h or more. This applies to the general speed limit, and speed limits prescribed by signs.

It should be noted that the above traffic crimes are generalised summaries of 11 criminal offences listed in the AARTO regulations.

“While it is true that the AARTO Act is only in force in the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, and fines under the Criminal Procedure Act in force elsewhere in the country will differ, whether or not arrest is sanctioned cannot differ because the Constitution enshrines equality before the law,” the JPSA said.

It added that overtaking on a solid line in the face of oncoming traffic, and disregarding a red traffic signal could be interpreted as reckless and negligent driving, but both offences have admission of guilt fines attached to them.

A list of traffic offences published by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency is reproduced in the table below. Criminal offences under AARTO regulations are marked in red and emphasised.

Infringements and demerit points
Infringement Fine amount Demerit points
Licences and miscellaneous
Driving an unregistered vehicle R500 1
Driving an unlicensed vehicle R500 1
Driving a vehicle with licence plate not visible R500 1
Driving without a driving licence R1,250 4
Driving without a seat belt R250 0
Driving under influence of intoxicating substance Determined by court 6
Driving while holding and using a cellphone R500 1
Failing to stop
Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles) R500 1
Skipping a stop sign (buses, trucks) R750 2
Skipping a red light (light vehicles) R500 1
Skipping a red light (buses, trucks) R750 2
Failing to yield to a pedestrian R500 1
Overtaking and overloading
Overtaking across a barrier line (light vehicles) R500 1
Overtaking across a barrier line (buses, trucks) R750 2
Overloading a vehicle with max 56,000kg combination mass by 12-13.99% R1,500 5
81-85km/h in a 60km/h zone R750 2
100km/h+ in a 60km/h zone Determined by court 6
106-110km/h in an 80km/h zone R1,000 3
120km/h+ in an 80km/h zone Determined by court 6
121-125km/h in a 100km/h zone R750 2
131-135km/h in a 100km/h zone R1,250 4
140km/h+ in a 100km/h zone Determined by court 6
131-135km/h in a 120km/h zone R250 0
141-145km/h in a 120km/h zone R750 2
151-155km/h in a 120km/h zone R1,250 4
160km/h+ in a 120km/h zone Determined by court 6

Reckless, outrageous, emotional statement from the RTMC: JPSA

Dembovsky argued that Msibi’s statements were reckless as it could result in some traffic officers taking his claims seriously, which would have severe consequences.

“Traffic officers are granted limited powers under law in effecting arrests without a warrant and acting any differently would definitely provide people with an opportunity to lodge civil claims against the traffic authorities and the officers who arrest them for offences for which arrest is not prescribed,” Dembovsky said.

Dembovsky wanted to note that the JPSA is not anti-traffic law enforcement, and neither does it aim to defend the actions of delinquent road users.

“Quite the opposite in fact,” he said. “JPSA is very much in favour of proper physical and visible policing but we simply cannot allow the CEO’s clearly misinformed assertions to go unchallenged.”

What you can’t be arrested for

“As much as we all wish that we could convince everyone in motor cars, bakkies, trucks, minibuses (including taxis), and buses to wear seatbelts in the interests of their own safety, threatening them with arrest for not doing so is bizarre at best,” the JPSA said.

“Similarly, failing to display a current licence disc on your vehicle’s windscreen is not an offence for which you may be arrested and nor is forgetting to carry your driving licence with you.”

It said that the CEO of the RTMC is either grossly misinformed about the powers traffic officers have, or he is using similar scare tactics to those his predecessor tried.

Such tactics have repeatedly proven themselves to be totally ineffective, the JPSA said.

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