Cape Town - Indications are that many motorists are finding themselves on the wrong side of the law due to a misunderstanding fines known as "Section 56" notices.
The City of Cape Town warns motorists against an increase in warrants of arrest being generated for failure to appear in court, largely due to some motorists not understanding the difference between types of fines issued.
As a result, unsuspecting motorists run the risk of being arrested for unpaid traffic fines.
Traffic enforcement agencies generally issue two types of fines - the Section 341 notice and the Section 56 notice.
Section 341 notice
A Section 341 notice is issued in circumstances where it is not evident who the driver is; for instance, a parking ticket or an offence captured by means of a camera. For such offences, vehicle owners receive fines in the post. If the fine is not paid, a summons follows with a date to appear in court.
Section 56 notice
Section 56 notices are issued where an enforcement officer physically stops a motorist and issues the fine. It is primarily used for moving violations that are witnessed by an officer. The Section 56 notice has the option of a fine, which, if not paid is an automatic written notice to appear in court on a date stipulated on the fine. Vehicle owners do not receive notices in the post for Section 56 notices.
In recent years, the City has introduced a number of measures to help expedite the generation and execution of warrants for outstanding traffic fines, including:
• an agreement with the Sheriffs of the Court to help execute warrants of arrest.
• the introduction of the Admin Mark on eNatis which prevents motorists from renewing their vehicle licence if they have outstanding warrants.
• the introduction of an SMS reminder service to motorists with outstanding fines.
• the introduction of automatic number plate recognition technology in traffic vehicles to trace scofflaws.
• the ramping up of Operation Reclaim, which aims to track down warrant evaders.
The City’s Mayoral committee member for safety and security, Alderman JP Smith, says: "This is where things have come unstuck, unfortunately. Some motorists are under the misguided impression that they’ll receive a follow up notice in the post and when that doesn’t arrive, they happily carry on with business as usual – until they are stopped at a roadblock or by a member of our roving Automated Number Plate Recognition Unit and discover that there is a warrant out for their arrest.
"Not only is there the very real risk of arrest and time in a holding cell, but it also means that we are dealing with a pile of warrants that could have been avoided if only the motorist realised that the physical fine that was issued was, in fact, their notice to pay."
Choosing to disregard fines
Alderman Smith continues: "I have to add that not everyone is necessarily blissfully ignorant; some simply choose to disregard the fine even though they are informed by the officers issuing the ticket of the consequences. I have very little sympathy for this category of motorist, because they are the scofflaws who clearly don’t have any respect for the law and think traffic fines are a joke.
"I am compelled to remind members of the public that the issuing of traffic fines is not a revenue-chasing exercise, but the enforcement of national legislation that prescribes how motorists are expected to behave on the roads.
We’ve introduced these additional layers to track down errant motorists because when people realise that their actions have consequences, they start modifying their behaviour. We then end up with safer roads and a lower road death toll. Cape Town has already seen results in this regard which spurs us on to hold even more motorists accountable," Alderman Smith concluded.