With the amended Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) regulations including the introduction of a points-based license demerit system for traffic offences, which will come into effect July 2022, it’s worthwhile knowing how this will work.
This is according to Kirstie Haslam, partner at personal injury firm DSC Attorneys who says that the Act will also allow for electronic serving of infringement documents and the creation of “rehabilitation centres” for those who have had their licenses cancelled.
Even though the new system kicked off on 1st July 2021 Haslam says that the actual implementation of the system will be delayed as there will need to be a massive information drive to get the public informed therefore phase one will involve the Transport Department conducting public awareness and education campaigns to ensure road users understand the process involved with the new system.
What is the AARTO Amendment Act?
Currently, traffic violations in South Africa are handled as criminal offences. Fines are issued and progressed in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Act, and offences are prosecuted in court by the National Prosecuting Authority.
The AARTO Amendment Act, which was passed in 2019, decriminalises most traffic violations.
Haslam explains that this means that most traffic violations will be dealt with via an administrative, rather than criminal, process.
The amended AARTO process
Haslam explains that the amended AARTO process involves three main steps:
1) issuing an infringement notice
A driver may be served with an infringement notice on the spot (roadside) or this notice may be delivered after the fact to the registered vehicle owner.
The recipient then has 32 days to:
· pay a 50% discounted fine and incur applicable demerit points
· arrange to pay the full fine in instalments and incur applicable demerit points
· submit a written representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) contesting the alleged violation, or
· nominate the driver if this was someone else.
2) issuing a courtesy letter
If the recipient doesn’t respond within 32 days, a courtesy letter will be issued.
The recipient then has a further 32 days to:
· pay the full fine plus R200 – consisting of a so-called infringement penalty levy (IPL) of R100 plus a courtesy letter fee of R100 – and incur the applicable demerit points, or
· submit a written representation to the RTIA contesting the fine.
3) issuing an enforcement order
If the recipient doesn’t respond within a further 32 days, an enforcement order is issued.
The applicable demerit points are applied and the recipient is blocked from performing licensing transactions on eNaTIS. This means no driving license, professional driving permit or vehicle license disc may be issued.
To comply with the order, the recipient will need to pay the full fine plus R300 (R100 each for the IPL, courtesy letter and enforcement order).
The alleged infringer has a final 32 days after the enforcement order is served to apply to the RTIA for the order to be revoked.
How the AARTO point-based system will work
A driver (owner, operator or “juristic person”) will start with zero points. Haslam says that for each offence, the driver will be allocated between one and six points – depending on the seriousness of the offence.
A person who collects more than 15 points will have his or her driver’s license suspended for up to three months.
For each demerit point over the threshold of 15, a three-month suspension will be incurred. A driver with 19 points, for example, will lose his or her license for a year, she explains.
“Three suspensions will result in a license being cancelled and the driver will then have to retake the learner’s license and driving tests,” she says. “Driving or operating a vehicle during suspension is a criminal offence subject to a fine or imprisonment (plus a further six demerit points on conviction).”
“If a driver who has incurred points has a clean record for three months, one point will be deducted from his or her record,” she adds.
Proposed three-phase introduction of AARTO
The allocation of demerit points is being introduced in three phases. This aims to ensure road users are gradually introduced to the system. Haslam explains:
This phase will introduce demerit points for speeding, dangerous overtaking and other hazardous driving behaviour, such as failing to stop at traffic lights and stop signs.
It includes other road-sign infringements, roadworthy offences and infringements for faulty brakes and lamps.
It also includes failing to drive with a valid driving license or professional driving permit, and failure to have a roadworthy certificate for a vehicle.
This phase will be introduced once the effect of the allocation of demerit points has been evaluated by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA).
Demerit points will be allocated to offences and infringements of economic significance, including the protection of roads and bridges through overload control and cross-border road transport permits.
Failure to pay license fees will be added to the list of offences and infringements that carry demerit points.
Phase three will add offences and infringements relevant to the failure to update addresses and other relevant information of owners, operators, drivers, cross-border road transport permit holders and operating license holders.