If there's one word that has been instilling at least some kind of fear in drivers, it's AARTO. Since it has been signed to law a few weeks ago, it has caused much dismay. However, there really is no need to panic - if you're a good, law-abiding driver on local roads.
Wheels24 has been reporting on the demerit system for years, and for a long time, it seemed to be nothing but a concept that would never materialise in South Africa.
Then, on 13 August 2019, the Administration of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) was finally signed into law to much hysteria.
Many South Africans appear to be more concerned about not being able to drive recklessly than what they are about the law’s potential to increase road safety in South Africa, says MasterDrive SA's Eugene Herbert.
How does it work?
Each person starts with a zero-point balance. Every time you are caught committing a traffic offence, points are added according to the offence’s seriousness. Once you have 13 points your license is suspended for three months. For every three offence-free months, one point is deducted from your balance. If your license is suspended three times, it can be cancelled.
Managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says with one of the highest road fatality rates in the world, it is clear South Africa is in dire need of harsher consequences for road law transgressions.
"If you are committed to playing your role in creating safer roads and obey the rules of the road, you have no reason to be concerned. It is only if you wrack up fines with no intention of changing your driving behaviour, should you worry about AARTO.
"The system is not merely meant to punish law breakers but change driver behaviour all together. Currently, punishments are not severe enough to create any real fear of the consequences. Perhaps AARTO can compel drivers to break these habits and place more importance on safe and responsible driving."
Part of the concern expressed is related to the potential for corruption.
"Whether AARTO will fall prey to corruption is yet to be seen, yet, what has already been seen for sure, is the current system is rife with corruption. This makes it difficult to achieve any real change to driver behaviour when one can buy their way out of consequences. There is also another group of individuals who happily trade the cost of fines off in favour of breaking the law.
“What drivers do not as easily acknowledge is that for corruption to occur, there needs to be South African drivers who are willing participants in the exchange. Ultimately, if you are a driver that respects the laws of the road, is committed to road safety and who is willing to make a stand against corruption, there is no real reason to fear AARTO,” says Herbert.
If you are concerned about what AARTO entails, MasterDrive is offering complimentary consultations to anyone who is concerned about the effect whether on themselves or their fleets.
How will the South African Traffic Demerit System affect Motorists?
1 All motorists start with zero points.
2 Points (between 1 to 6) are allocated according to the severity of road infringements or offences committed.
3 Demerits are assigned to both drivers and cars when a penalty fine for a traffic infringement is paid or when the person is convicted of an offence in court;
4 When 12 points are exceeded, the driver’s licence will be suspended for a period calculated in months, equal to the number of points exceeding 12, multiplied by three (the Minister of Transport may also prescribe a specific number);
5 A driver may apply for the return of their licence once the suspension period lapses;
6 A driver who is disqualified for the third time will lose their licence and will have to reapply for a learners licence and redo their drivers testing after the suspension period lapses;
7 Should a driver fail to pay fines, they could be blocked from obtaining driving and vehicle licences;
8 Drivers could be served with documents from Authorities via email or reminders via WhatsApp and SMS. Previously, this could only be delivered by registered mail.
Can Demerits Points Be Reduced?
Yes, penalty points will be reduced at a flat rate of one point per every three months.