President Cyril Ramaphosa is on a bill signing / law-making mission at the moment.
One of the bills signed into law recently is being met with a fair amount of pushback.
When the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill was first proposed a while back it was controversial, and it then went through all of the processes and changes necessary to get it to its final form.
The version that landed on Ramaphosa’s desk, however, is not making people happy – especially the part about the new demerit system.
Before we go into everything that’s wrong with the new system, let’s first hand over to BusinessTech for a look at how it’s going to work.
The act establishes a new point demerit system with drivers penalised for breaking various road rules.
Speaking at an event on Sunday (18 August), transport minister Fikile Mbalula said that all traffic fines across the country will now carry the same penal values, with the ultimate aim being to remove reckless and dangerous drivers from the country’s roads.
Not all traffic law violations will carry demerit points – but be warned, points can add up pretty quickly.
“You may incur no more than 12 demerit points without your licence being suspended,” he said.
“On the 13th point, and for every point thereafter, your licence, operator card or permit issued in terms of road transport legislation will be suspended for three months for each point over 12.
“For example, if you incur 15 demerit points, the suspension period will be nine months.”
For an overview of how the points could be allocated according to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), you will see a number of tables here.
That’s quite a few ways to get your license suspended.
This brings us to another BusinessTech article, where they with civil rights group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) about their reservations regarding the new law.
According to [Outa], there are concerns that the bill will not improve road safety, adding that “it is logistically cumbersome to the point of being potentially unconstitutional, and paves the way for corruption”.
Outa opposed the bill from the start and appealed to have it amended, but their concerns were not taken into consideration.
Furthermore, the pilot projects designed to test the demerit system in Tshwane and Johannesburg over the last decade failed.
That’s not all.
Howard Dembovsky‚ chairperson of the Justice Project SA, said that the demerit system is not the problem, “what’s problematic is that it’s an administrative system where an accused person does not go on trial.
“Essentially if a traffic officer says that you are guilty of committing a road traffic infringement, that is the long and the short of it. You are guilty and you don’t even get a chance to prove yourself innocent.”
Is it just me, or does this feel like an easy way for corrupt traffic officials to practice their corruption even more efficiently?
Then there’s the issue of insurance premiums.
Nagtegaal said that implementing the demerit system has numerous implications for the insurance industry.
“The suspension of a motorist’s license is likely to increase their insurance premiums or excess, influenced by greater perceived risk on the insurer’s part.”
There are a number of things that insurance companies will have to take into consideration, which you can read about here.
Finally, the amendment act will change driving in South Africa in the following ways:
- Failing to pay traffic fines can lead to a block on obtaining driving and vehicle licences and an administrative fee – in addition to other penalties;
- Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the post office, in terms of the amendment, authorities will now also be able to serve documents electronically and can send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS;
- A new demerit system will be introduced. Depending on the severity of the offence, 1-6 points are allocated for offences. If an infringer has more than 12 points, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation;
- The establishment of a new Appeals Tribunal which will preside over issues that are raised under the new act.
The new law hasn’t been implemented yet, but you should probably keep an eye on it.
My biggest concern is the threat of corruption.
Anyone who has ever been pulled over in Johannesburg, at night, by a police or traffic officer, knows all about what can go wrong when someone is looking to make a quick buck.
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