The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Bill of 1998 is in the process of being amended.
The decision to amend the Bill was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday and will now be signed off by the President.
This amendment, although aimed at transforming the roads, might in fact have negative consequences on road users.
This will see the long awaited implementation of the demerit system and the Appeals Tribunal.
Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi said in a press briefing on Wednesday that this amendment is a step in the right direction.
“South Africa has been experiencing tremendous loss of lives, especially of young people, as well as the continued disregard of road traffic laws,” said Minister Maswanganyi.
The aim is to use this amendment as a way to decrease the number of fatalities on South Africa’s roads.
The amended bill has been on a trial period since 2008 in Tshwane and parts of Johannesburg.
But What Does The Amended Bill Include?
Along with all the usual traffic rules and regulations, AARTO aims to:
- Implement a demerit system;
- Establish an Appeals Tribunal for motorists to appeal their infringements;
- Make vehicle owners responsible for any infringement, even if someone else is driving;
- Removal of Section 21. This means that the confiscation of drivers license, disc or impounding of vehicle is no longer allowed.
The Minister has encouraged the government to support the amendment. He believes that the demerit system, especially, will provide drivers with a sense of ownership.
“Those that continue to break the laws, will find themselves ultimately losing their driving licences through suspensions and cancellations of their drivers licenses. We must remember that a driving licence always belongs to the government and everyone that wants to exercise this benefit, must comply with the conditions related there.”
Is This Bill Going To Be Successful?
According to Justice Project SA’s Howard Dembovsky, this Bill is going to cause more chaos than anything else.
“The AARTO Act, as it exists now and is going to be amended, is predicated on the presumption which you are guilty until proven innocent. It takes the onus of proof and plants it firmly in your lap. And it also takes the onus of action and plants it firmly in your lap,” Dembovsky explains.
Infringements are going to be sent electronically to vehicle owners. This means that if you don’t have access to technology on a permanent basis, this will be detrimental.
If you are accused of being guilty to an infringement, you will receive a letter electronically. You have 32 days to appeal.
The government is basically calling you guilty until you, as the vehicle owner, are able to prove your innocence. This, in many cases might be difficult, as you might not know the legalities when it comes to road traffic offences.
The Appeals Tribunal And Its Flaws
The point of the Appeals Tribunal is to cut out the expensive lawyer fees, as well as the whole court process.
This might seem like a good alternative, but you have to pay an additional fee “determined by the Minister” before you can appeal.
You have 32 days to appeal your infringement. If you don’t appeal, your license will be suspended. During this time, you will not be allowed to apply for a new license, license disc or driving permit.
So, in other words, you have to appeal if you don’t want your license suspended. It all depends on how many demerits you have received. This will determine how many months your license will be suspended for.
“You may incur a maximum of 12 points. Anything over 12 points, your driving license will be suspended for a period of three months for each demerit point,” explains Dembovsky. “For example, if you have 6 points against you, they[the government] reduce every one point for every three months. That’s what they call a reward system!”
The Demerit System
There has been much talk surrounding the demerit system in South Africa. The implementation of the Bill will happen nationally towards the end of 2017.
Remember that we all start on zero points. The more points incurred – the longer the suspension. Here is how you can potentially get demerit points…
Is This Really Going to Be A Successful System?
Dembovsky says that the demerit system needs a lot of work in order for it to be successful.
“The demerit system can only work properly if one enforces laws in a physical fashion. In other words, if you have traffic cops out there stopping people and checking if their driving licenses are valid and whether it has been suspended or not.”
Not only that, but a drivers licenses does not have a chip built into it. This means that officers can not access information regarding infringements via your license disc or card.
You can easily escape a roadblock unscathed due to the lack the relevant measures taken to access your demerits.
The country has many flaws that need to be rectified before they implement something so strict. The chances that this, like many of the other ideas that the government has tried to implement, might fail are high.
Many people are sure to be up in arms about this matter.
At the end of the day, lets just be honest. This just seems like another ploy for the government to make revenue from its citizens!