Johannesburg - The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Bill is currently before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for final approval, since it was passed by the National Assembly in Parliament. This is the last step before it is signed into law.
According to LawForAll: "The Bill’s primary goal is to remove habitual traffic offenders from South Africa’s roads and highways by implementing a traffic demerit system. And with annual increases in road accidents and fatalities, stricter measures to make our roads safer and punish reckless drivers are needed now more than ever.
"Of course, while we are certainly all for additional road safety measures, South Africa’s last attempt at regulating drivers (e-Tolls, anyone?) caused more chaos than harmony, especially because the public felt that they weren’t properly consulted in the matter."
Provinces are currently holding public hearings with regards to the AARTO.
Participate in public hearings
LawforAll's Managing Director, Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, says it is good to see that the Bill has reached this stage of the process, especially since its implementation has been dragging for 20 years now. Nagtegaal said: "On a positive note, the Bill is a step in the right direction in terms of wanting to prevent carnage on our roads, but it is important to realise that these laws will affect motorists’ daily lives, and thus, exercising the right to give feedback and raise any concerns is vital."
The proposed Bill is fairly controversial and has been met with substantial criticism.
1. Motorists will no longer receive traffic infringement notices in person or by registered mail only. Emails, SMS and other forms of electronic service will be considered valid forms of notification. Curiously, an infringement notice could also be sent via social media platforms, i.e. Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
2. "Removing the right of an alleged infringer to elect to be tried in court until a courtesy letter has been issued", says JPSA. Motorists who want to challenge an infringement received from a traffic official will have to do so in writing to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority, which is a State-Owned Enterprise. If the written representation is unsuccessful, an additional R200 penalty must be paid. The next step would be to approach the new Appeals Tribunal within 30 days. Unfortunately, more fees are payable, which will be determined by the Minister of Transport. Only after the review at the Tribunal fails will the option to approach the court be allowed.
3. Let’s say the issuing authority (traffic department) doesn’t comply with AARTO when it comes to serving infringement notices, and a motorist, as a result, succeeds in challenging the infringement at the Road Traffic Infringement Authority, the authority will be allowed to re-issue and serve that infringement notice within 6 months of the alleged violation, reports LawForAll
4. Motorists that do not make use of these channels to challenge a traffic violation could receive an enforcement order 3 months after the initial notice. This will prevent them from acquiring a licence disc or driving licence card until they pay the penalty and enforcement order fees in full.
5. For every demerit point over a maximum of 12, motorists’ licences will be suspended for 3 months. That means, if a driver has 15 demerits, their licence will be suspended for nine months. If a licence is suspended twice, the driver will be considered a “habitual offender” and be referred to a rehabilitation programme. If the driver continues to accumulate demerit points after this, their driving licence will be cancelled.
6. Should an employee be served a notice of infringement while driving a company vehicle, business owners must nominate the driver within 32 days of the infringement being served. If the owner fails to do so, the demerits points will be applied to their record.
How will the traffic demerit system work?
Every driver will start with zero points to their name, and will face a three-month licence suspension if they exceed 12 points. However, in 2017, after initial rounds of public hearings, the AARTO task team added amendments and came up with a so-called 'B' version. The updated draft allows for demerits to be allocated per violation as opposed to per incident. This means that if driver was speeding in an unregistered car, they will be penalised for both violations, for example. Motorists also run the risk of their licence being called cancelled if it gets suspended three times.
What’s more, the car owner is also liable for the fine/punishment. This means that the registered owner of the vehicle will be responsible for any infringement even if someone else was driving the car. The ONLY exception is if the owner gathers all the personal information of the actual driver (full name, ID number, residential and business addresses and contact details)
The Western Cape government has now made an urgent call for citizens to state their thoughts, opinions and concerns about the proposed bill (no word yet on when the other provinces will follow suit). There will be a number of public hearings across the province:
DATE TIME VENUE AREA
15 February 2018 17:00 Bellville Civic Centre
Voortrekker Road Bellville
19 February 2018 17:00 New Hall
Solomon Tshuku Avenue
Site C Khayelitsha
27 February 2018 17:00 Mossel Bay Town Hall
Marsh Street Mossel Bay
28 February 2018 17:00 Moffat Hall
Mount Pleasant Hermanus
1 March 2018 17:00 Kathy Johnson Multipurpose Centre
Bloekom Avenue Clanwilliam
Motorists that can’t attend one of these public hearings, can make written submissions. Which can be emailed or delivered to Ms Shareen Niekerk (firstname.lastname@example.org), Committee Coordinator, fourth floor, Provincial Legislature Building, 7 Wale Street, Cape Town, by no later than 12:00 on Friday 30 March 2018.