After years of speculation and anticipation, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula gazetted the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) regulations, which were due to be implented earlier this year. However, South Africa’s new traffic rules and demerit system has been delayed due to the ongoing pandemic. The new AARTO laws, which aim to remove habitual traffic offenders from South Africa’s roads and highways to make it safer for everyone, is now expected to be phased in from the 1 July 2021.
Of course, while we are indeed all for additional road safety measures, South Africa’s last attempt at regulating drivers (eTolls, anyone?) caused more chaos than harmony. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has filed papers in the High Court, to apply for the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act and Aarto Amendment Act to be declared unconstitutional. But, should the proposed demerit system be rolled out anytime soon, here’s the important stuff you need to know.
2020 AARTO Amendments
Motor vehicle owners need to have the particulars of anyone who drives their vehicle.
The new amendments states that anyone who lets anyone else use their vehicle or puts anyone in charge of their vehicle must have the following details: their full names, residential address, postal address and a copy of the person’s ID and/or driver’s licence. Failure to to do this will result in the owner being held liable for any infringement, even if they weren’t behind the wheel.
What happens with company vehicles?
According to the amendments, any company or vehicle owner must complete a specific form (Aarto 27 ) to allow their employers access to their demerit points. This is valid for 12 months. What’s more, companies must also clarify or nominate which drivers are responsible for the infringements while driving a company vehicle- this can be done by completing an Aarto 07 form. If done correctly, the notice against the owner will be withdrawn by the issuing authority and the driver will be charged for the infringement. If not done properly, the owner/company will be issued the notice.
How traffic violations will work under AARTO
For traffic violations, drivers will still be issued a legal notice via registered mail. After 10 days of the notice being issued, it will be assumed that the driver has received it.
Legal note: the onus to prove the legal notice was NOT received will lie on the driver/vehicle owner, and this has to be done with an affidavit. The issuing authority DOES NOT have to prove that the notice was served.
The Proposed Demerit System.
The most controversial and divisive aspect of AARTO is the proposed demerit system. In addition to paying fines, drivers, owners or “juristic person who is not the operator”. The latter can be a company, close corporation or anyone who the vehicle is licensed to, and don’t necessarily have an operator’s card.
What Does the Traffic Demerit System Hope to Do?
Although the demerit system was officially signed into law in September 1998, it was delayed indefinitely due to an assessment of human resources required and an analysis of the technological necessities, amongst other reasons. But, while its exact implementation date is still unclear, the AARTO Act aims to:
- promote road traffic quality by providing a system to discourage road traffic contraventions;
- facilitate the adjudication of road traffic infringements;
- support the prosecution of offences in terms of the national and provincial laws relating to road traffic; and
- implement a points demerit system.
How will the South African Traffic Demerit System Work?
- All drivers will start with zero points (regardless of the number of classes of vehicle licences held);
- Points are allocated according to the severity of infringements or offences committed (points between 1 to 6 will be issued depending on how severe the offence is);
- Demerits are assigned to both drivers and cars when a penalty fine for a traffic infringement is paid or when the person is convicted of the offence in court;
- When 12 points are exceeded, the driver’s licence will be suspended for a period calculated in months, equal to the number of points exceeding 12, multiplied by three (the Minister of Transport may also prescribe a specific number);
- A driver may apply for the return of their licence once the suspension period lapses;
- A driver who is disqualified for the third time will lose their licence and will have to reapply for a learners licence and redo their drivers testing after the suspension period lapses;
- Should a driver fail to pay fines, they could be blocked from obtaining driving and vehicle licences;
- Authorities will now be able to serve documents via email and send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS. Previously, this could only be delivered by registered mail.
Can Demerits Points Be Reduced?
Yes, penalty points will be reduced at a flat rate of one point per every three months.
Can I Challenge the Demerits?
Yes, should you want to dispute the demerit, you can make a representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency. If unsuccessful, an appeal can be submitted to a Special Appeals Tribunal. However, the option for offenders to appear in court with hopes of challenging prosecution is no longer available.
Who Can View my Demerit Points?
According to section 33 of Act 46 of 1998, a person may see his or her demerit point history. However, an employer may also access this information, but only after the individual has granted permission.
(Do note: the demerit points aren’t replacing traffic fines but will be allocated in conjunction with them).
For more info on traffic violations, penalties and demerits, be sure to check out our infographic on the Traffic Demerit System.
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