The AARTO (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) Bill has been mired in controversy since day one, with civil society groups and legal experts questioning the intended impact these changes would have on the driving habits of SA motorists, and whether or not it will pave the way for further, more rampant corruption.
The Automobile Association, though supportive of a points-based system and the original concept, warned that the system in its current form is unlikely to make the roads safer.
In order for a system such as this to work, law enforcement will have to be effective – which, as it currently stands, it isn’t. According to the AA, a more comprehensive approach to rooting out corruption and bribery will need to be found, along with the implementation of effective licencing and better application of vehicle roadworthiness.
Earlier this year, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport approved the final amendments to the bill, and earlier this week, President Ramaphosa officially signed the legislation into law.
That’s right, folks. The dreaded day has arrived.
Along with speculations about how ineffective the system may prove, opening doors for bribery and extortion, it has also been suggested that it may, in fact, be a direct violation of our constitutional rights.
While the law may now be official, we don’t know when exactly it will come into effect, or if parts of the bill will be introduced one at a time. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know, so far.
The new demerit system, first and foremost, will be introduced. For those who are unfamiliar with this, it basically means that motorists will now be subjected to far stricter rules, with far greater consequences for breaking them.
Depending on the severity of the offence you’ve committed, you will be allocated 1-6 demerit points. When you’ve racked up more than 12 points, it will result in the suspension of your driving licence. Three suspensions will result in its cancellation.
These points are allocated for a large number of possible offences, from driving without a seatbelt, driving without a licence, operating a cellular phone while driving or speeding.
Failure to pay your traffic fines will also lead to a block on renewing driving and vehicle licences, as well as hefty administrative fees.
Another big change involves the delivery of documents, such as fines and summonses. Previously, these had to be delivered by registered mail, and motorists could simply claim to have never received them. Now, authorities will serve documents electronically, sending reminders via WhatsApp and SMS, and it will automatically be assumed that the offender received them.
Finally, a new Appeals Tribunal will be established to preside over issues that will, no doubt, be raised under the new bill.
Mbalula has a valid point, going on to state that it is only in South Africa that a motorist is allowed to become a repetitive serial law-breaker and not face serious jail time. The wicked need to be punished and would-be offenders need to be warned.
Drunk, reckless and distracted drivers endanger everybody on the road, and are often able to escape punishment for their crimes by paying a fine.
Along with the plans to classify drunken driving as an offence on par with murder, and punish drunk drivers far more severely, the demerit system could very well be the solution South Africa needs.
If, of course, government can sort all the other problems out.
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