South African motorists who commit traffic offences will soon receive demerit points which can lead to their licenses being suspended and, ultimately, cancelled.
The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, which has proposed a demerit system for road infringements since 2008, will come into effect on 1 July. The Act has faced multiple challenges in recent years, with the latest legal fight from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) aimed at declaring the legislation unconstitutional.
The Act’s opponents argue that the new regulations will do little to curb the carnage on South Africa’s roads and, instead, infringe the rights of motorists and existing municipal bylaws.
Under the new AARTO system, all motorists will start 1 July with zero demerit points on their licenses. Demerit points will be added to the motorist’s license when a fine is paid, the offender is found guilty in court, or when an enforcement order is issued.
A motorist’s drivers license will be suspended for three months once more than 15 demerit points have been accumulated. An additional three-month suspension will be added for every demerit accumulated beyond the 15-point threshold. Motorists who operate a vehicle with a suspended license will receive a further six demerit points, and could even face jail time when convicted.
Two suspensions will result in the license being cancelled. One point will be reduced for every three months that a motorist does not record any infringements.
The Act is due to be rolled out in five phases, according to the director-general of transport Alec Moemi, who presented the department’s annual performance plan to parliament on 19 May. The first phase, starting on 1 July, “entails setting up the registry” which will manage the demerit system through the National Traffic Information System (eNatis).
Infringements and offences are contained within Schedule 3 of the AARTO regulations. Demerit points are attached to approximately 1,000 offences, while standalone fines and compulsory court appearances apply to a further 1,600 infringements.
Demerit points – ranging from one to six – are based on the seriousness of specific offences. Infringements such as failing to proceed when a traffic light is green or operating a vehicle that isn’t fitted with a rear-view mirror are considered minor offences and will earn motorists one demerit point each.
Failing to stop behind the line at a stop street is worth two demerit points. Driving with an expired license carries three demerit points. Driving at 150 km/h on the highway is a four-point offence. Doing 160 km/h will get drivers five demerit points. All demerit points also come with a fine, with a monetary value generally linked to the level of offence.
There are 100 serious offences listed within Schedule 3 of the AARTO Regulations which carry six demerit points and mandatory court appearances. Some examples of the most serious six-point offences, which do not come with the option to pay an admission of guilt fine but, instead, require the motorist to appear in court, include:
All six-point offences carry a No Admission of guilt Penalty (NAP). Offences that carry five demerit points also come with fines ranging from R1,500 to R3,500.