AARTO's silver lining: 'Threat of losing one's licence can change reckless behaviour'

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Traffic officer
Traffic officer
Darren Stewart

• AARTO will come into effect in July 2021.

• The demerit system will see motorists accumulate points for transgressions.

• Drivers will also run the risk of losing their licences.

For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24

The long-awaited driver demerit system is likely to come into effect this year. The Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) has been in the works for a while - since a trial in 2008, in fact - but it's now firmly back on the agenda, with commencement planned for July. Seen as a silver bullet to curb the country's road fatality rate - South Africa ranks 13th out of 195 countries for its number of road deaths per capita - AARTO has big implications for drivers and their insurance

AARTO is a positive act that should hopefully address the country's status as one of the world's most dangerous places to drive. It will take a while to implement and enforce, but once it's fully operational and South Africans understand its implications, it should make a dramatic difference.

Currently, 90% of road accidents are preceded by a road accident offence. The threat of losing one's licence is likely to change reckless behaviour for the long-term. This should have a collective knock-on effect on insurance premiums. Fewer accidents and fatalities mean the price should go down for everybody.

licence,drivers, motorists,fines,traffic
A metro police officer talks to a motorist at a roadblock in Cape Town, South Africa.

AARTO in a nutshell

AARTO will penalise drivers and fleet operators guilty of traffic offences or infringements by imposing demerit points that could lead to the suspension or cancellation of licences, professional driving permits or operator cards. It will also encourage the payment of fines and reduce the burden on South African courts by removing the initial option to elect to appear in court.

READ: AARTO should be postponed following investigation of financial maladministration - RSP

The number of points incurred will be dependent on the nature of the traffic offence or charge. Currently, there are over 2500 separate charges. All drivers will start with zero points. Once the limit of points is exceeded, a driving licence is suspended for three months. Driving a vehicle during this 'prohibition period' is a criminal offence, subject to a fine or jail time. 

If a licence is suspended for the third time, it will be cancelled, and a driver must start from scratch with a learner's licence, etc. Demerit points decrease by one point every three months so that drivers can work their way back down to zero.

Traffic officer at a road block

What you need to know from your insurance perspective:

1. Ensure the points go to the right person: You need to notify the relevant authorities who was driving the vehicle when the law was broken. This is particularly important for companies, where cars could be registered in one person's name, with employees authorised to drive it. 

2. Tell your insurer if your licence is suspended/ cancelled:

If the licensing laws suspend or cancel the Insured or an authorised driver's driving licence, as may happen in terms of the AARTO Amendment Act, the Insured would be obliged to notify the Company that a driving licence has been suspended or cancelled.

Subject always to the circumstances of the defined event, should a driver operate an insured vehicle with a driving licence that is suspended or cancelled, the policy may exclude all cover for the event. 

READ: Suspected RTIA corruption 'undermines public confidence' in proposed AARTO Act

Craig McLaurin - senior motor underwriter: Commercial Underwriting Services at Santam

Liz de Villiers - manager: Commercial Motor Underwriting at Santam

Traffic officer
Traffic officer in Cape Town
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Brought to you by
Voting Booth
Who do you feel was at fault for Verstappen and Hamilton's Italian GP crash?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
25% - 1453 votes
43% - 2474 votes
They were both at fault
32% - 1813 votes