Road traffic demerit system: Here’s how it works and how to avoid accumulating points

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill into law. The legislation is designed to change driver behaviour through a demerit system for traffic behaviour.

It was piloted in Johannesburg and Tshwane, and according to government, it will help curb SA's high rate of road deaths - which comes to over 14 000 people per year, with an economic impact of some R147bn.

Vehicle finance provider WesBank said in a media release on Thursday that the points system was similar to what was already used in several European countries and would help make SA's roads safer. 

Here's what you need to know:

How will it work?

The new point system will have each driver starting off with zero points, with the highest number set at 12 points. These points will work on a cumulative basis, with a different number of points for each traffic violation.

If the points amount to 12 or more, the driver’s licence will be suspended for a period of three months. One point is reduced every three months if no further violations occur. But should motorists exceed three suspensions, they run the risk of permanently losing their licence, as it can be cancelled if it has been suspended for a third time.

A driver/operator who is disqualified for the third time will permanently lose the licence/operator card and will have to reapply for testing, as if they were a first-time license/operator applicant. The new system will also prevent you from renewing your drivers and/or vehicle licence if you do not pay your traffic fines, according to WesBank.

What are the traffic offences that would add to your demerit points?

From the lowest to highest allocation of points:

• Using and holding cell phone while driving will be one demerit point.

• Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles) is one demerit point, and for buses and trucks it is two points.

• Speeding can be anywhere from two to six points, depending on the speed limit (determined by court).

• Driving without a licence equals four demerit points.

• Driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance will be six demerit points (determined by court).

How can you avoid points piling up?

WesBank advises that you should carry carry your drivers’ licence at all times, as required by law.

Always adhere to the speed limit and maintain a safe following distance between your car and the car in front of you. And put away your cell phone, as it slows reaction times - which makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances. Whatever it is can wait! 

Just as you look after your own health, look after your vehicle. Ensure that it is always in a roadworthy condition. If you use your vehicle as a means of public transport, it’s a legal requirement to have your motor vehicle tested for roadworthiness annually.

Strive to be courteous and adhere to good road manners by respecting the rules of the road as well as fellow motorists. And lastly, be more tolerant and patient on the road and avoid aggressive driving.

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