The new system of traffic fines proposed by the Highway Traffic Offenses Agency (RTIA) and administered by the Administrative Traffic Offenses Arbitration Act (Aarto) aims to promote road safety and enforce stricter rules for motorists by introducing a demerit point system which could lead to the suspension or cancellation of driving licenses, operator cards or professional driving licenses.
“It is estimated that more than 14,000 road users die on our roads each year and this intervention aims to reduce the high number of deaths, possibly to a point where we reach zero”, explains Monde Mkalipi , spokesperson for the RTIA.
“Ultimately, most fatalities result from the behavior of road users.”
Mkalipi adds: “Aarto is above all about promoting good road user behavior among motorists so that we can have fewer fatalities on our roads. This is the main point concerning the existence of this legislation.
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According to the RTIA, the demerit point system will cause each driver to start with zero demerit points on their driver’s license, the number of points accumulated depending on the nature of the traffic violation.
Failure to use indicators, for example, will earn a driver one demerit point and be fined R 500, while driving under the influence of alcohol will earn the driver six demerit points and will sue him.
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If a driver accumulates 12 demerit points, their license will be suspended for three months, after which their demerit points will be reset to zero. However, a license suspended more than twice will be canceled.
Mkalipi says that if a violator pays their traffic fine within the initial 32-day notice period, they will be entitled to a 50% reduction.
Motorists will also be allowed to challenge the fine by submitting the relevant documents to defend their case, even beyond the designated notice period.
The organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says it is questioning the new traffic system on the grounds that the intention of the Aarto legislation is to make money, not to protect road users.
“While Outa believes that measures to improve road safety and reduce the number of fatalities are urgently needed, we do not believe the Aarto legislation will achieve this,” said Andrea Korff, senior legal project manager at Outa.
“Aarto was deployed to Gauteng 10 years ago and has failed dramatically.
“The statistics do not support the claim that this will lead to a reduction in the number of road fatalities and, therefore, Outa vehemently believes this system is just a lucrative program.”
Korff says Outa took the case to court to constitutionally challenge the validity of the Aarto and the Aarto Amendment Act. She says the case will not be heard until October 18 and 19 in the High Court.
However, the driver and vehicle registration agency Fines SA believes the new Aarto system will make a big difference to the current lawlessness on SA roads, when fully implemented and understood by the public.
“The reason we think this is a big step in the right direction is that in the past motorists were able to avoid paying their fines because they thought there would be no ramifications.” , said Barry Berman, CEO of Fines SA.
“Aarto’s injunctions encourage payment otherwise motorists are blocked on eNaTIs [Electronic National Administration Traffic Information System] system, [which] will reduce this misconception.
“There has to be a change of mindset in South Africa and this is our best chance.”
The first phase of the trial of the new Aarto system went into effect in July, with the second phase of the trial scheduled to run until December.
The RTIA expects the system to officially come into full force once President Cyril Ramaphosa publishes an official decree in the government gazette.
Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.