Groups warn against Aarto

The new traffic demerit system won’t work, a group that intends going to court to stop its implementation said in Johannesburg today.

“There are 282 municipalities in South Africa and the system is only being piloted in two of those municipalities, and its not working in those two, which are two of the best functioning municipalities,” lawyer for civil rights group Afriforum Willie Spies said.

Trade union Solidarity, Afriforum and the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce were announcing steps to stop implementation of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto).

“How is it going to work in the whole country?” Spies asked.

Aarto would penalise people for doing the right thing, he said. If a person was issued a fine and they paid it, they would still get a demerit point.

The system was currently being used on a trial basis in Johannesburg and Tshwane.

A person could even be penalised without knowing it, as Aarto would be relying on the SA Post Office, which was already unreliable, Spies said, to send notices of fines.

“If the fine is sent out then it is deemed to be received.”

Spies said the only way to try stop the implementation was through the courts.

“We need to convince the high court and the Constitutional Court to get government to go back and redraft the bill. The best way to attack injustice is to get people together to join hands and fight.”

Road traffic attorney Ian Moss said Aarto would impact negatively on owners of company vehicles and their drivers. If a driver committed an offence, both the driver and the owner would receive demerit points.

For a traffic offence, the operator would receive four demerit points and the driver one, Moss said.

After having accumulated 12 points the person’s licence would be suspended for three months.

“Its easy to get to 12 points and this would leave an owner without a driver and a driver without a job,” Moss said.

Aarto offers motorists issued with fines several options. Motorists can pay within 32 days and get a 50% discount, or provide proof they were not the driver at the time of the offence, or make an affidavit to appeal the penalty, or apply to pay the fine off in instalments, or challenge the infringement in court.

Moss said the latter option would lead to an even bigger backlog in the courts, as they were not capable of dealing with their current workload.
Aarto was going to cost industry billions of rands, he said.

Spies said most accidents in South Africa were due to reckless driving.

Aarto had a list of 2055 offences which a driver could be penalised for. Reckless driving was not on the list, he said.

“This is the wrong medicine for a serious disease in our country.”

According to Moss trade unions, taxi drivers and employers were against Aarto. While a system was necessary, as South Africa had one of the worst records in road safety, it had to be something which could be managed properly and which was fair.

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