Traffic fines no-pay shock

2012-12-30 10:01

New report reveals that very few South Africans pay for their infringements

As government prepares to roll out a new penalty system for motorists who flout traffic rules, it has emerged that only a fraction of South Africans pay their traffic fines.

The latest annual report of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) reveals that motorists on the national contraventions register owe R1.6 billion in outstanding traffic fines issued only in Tshwane and Johannesburg.

Since its inception, the RTIA has never been solvent.

Transport Minister Ben Martins is expected to announce the introduction of the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act early next year.

The RTIA was set up to implement the act.

But judging from the latest results on non-payment, it seems the Aarto pilot project in Gauteng, which has been running for almost five years, has failed miserably.

Aarto makes provision for a contraventions register that captures the names and details of outstanding traffic fines countrywide.

According to the RTIA report, motorists in Tshwane and Johannesburg racked up fines of R980 million between April 2011 and March 2012, but have paid fines worth only R86 million (9% of the total value).

Tshwane and Johannesburg were the only two metro municipalities that participated in the Aarto pilot phase.

Of the 1.8 million fines issued in these municipalities in the past ­financial year, only 251 125 (14%) were paid.

The RTIA, already buckling ­under work pressure with only 22 permanent staff members, is supposed to implement the Aarto system, which includes the penalisation of serial offenders, who will lose their driver’s licences.

Aarto will also prevent drivers with outstanding traffic fines from renewing their vehicle and driver’s licences.

But the agency says it is ready to implement Aarto regulations.

“We are busy with final preparations. The minister (Martins) will make the announcement sometime next year,” the RTIA’s Jeff Chuwe said. He added that the R1.6 billion in outstanding fines should be seen in context.

“Some motorists could have paid their outstanding fines since March. The Aarto process should not be measured in terms of the payment of fines because motorists also have the option to appeal their fines.”

But the agency’s annual report shows it received a mere 39 443 ­appeals from the almost 1 billion fines captured on the contraventions register in 2011/12.

Martins’ spokesperson, Sam Monareng, said the roll-out of ­Aarto would be announced “in due course”.

He said the shortcomings highlighted in the agency’s annual ­reports were being “prioritised and addressed ... The minister is confident that these will be sorted out effectively to ensure successful national roll-out.”

Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle said the RTIA is ­nowhere near ready to implement Aarto.

“The agency is basically bankrupt. If there is any indication that national government will force Aarto on to the Western Cape, we will again challenge it in court,” he said.

In 2010 Carlisle was ready to challenge the implementation of Aarto in the Western Cape in court, before a delay in implementation was announced.

Carlisle said he was not opposed to Aarto’s goals, but felt the agencies that have to implement the act were poorly managed.

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