Aarto woes could stifle e-tolling

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Independent Newspapers

File photo: Dumisani Sibeko.

The imminent collapse and inability of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) to collect fines from errant motorists could see the collapse of the e-tolling system even before it starts.

The Star yesterday revealed how Aarto is imploding because, among others, the Roads Traffic Infringement Agency has failed to issue even one courtesy or reminder letter to some 1.4 million motorists within 32 days of the fine since December 22, rendering all these fines invalid.

And, added to that is the fact that the Gauteng toll road passes through two municipalities – Joburg, which issues fines in terms of the Aarto Act, and Ekurhuleni, which still uses the old criminal justice process for fines.

Only two areas in South Africa – Joburg and Pretoria – operate on the Aarto system as pilot projects. The system will be rolled out nationwide when problems are ironed out, but this could take years, given the large number of problems.

LEGISLATION FULL OF HOLES

According to road traffic specialist Rob Handfield-Jones, there is no clear indication in the current e-tolls legislation as to who will collect the fines, and how.

“The legislation is incomplete on this, and no ruling has been made. It has not been clarified how the e-toll fine system will work while operating two different fine systems. Aarto is not yet ready to be rolled out nationally, by a long way, and the criminal procedure system, which is used along parts of the R21 and R24 in Ekurhuleni, is cumbersome and onerous,” he said.

In terms of calculations done by roads agency Sanral, it is estimated there will be a 7 percent non-compliance by motorists of payment for tolls.

This means that some 140 000 fines a day will have to be issued daily for non-payment, which will cause a court overload in Ekurhuleni.

“And that non-compliance figure, I believe, is grossly conservative. I believe non-compliance will be more around the 60 percent mark,” according to Handfield-Jones.

He said the imminent collapse of Aarto would make the collection of fines on toll roads “dead in the water”.

CONCOURT CHALLENGES

Over and above that, motorists would have the right to lodge complaints about the unfairness of being fined in different ways for the same offence, and this could open up a Constitutional Court challenge as the criminal procedure method will allow for the arrest of motorists, while the Aarto system does not.

Gary Ronald, public affairs head of the Automobile Association, also said there was no clarity in the current legislation.

“There is a clash between Aarto, which is an administrative procedure, and the criminal justice system.

“Using two prosecution methods along the same route could lead to an inconsistency, which will open Sanral up to legal challenges,” he said.

Speaking on the collapse of Aarto in general, Ronald said the AA would call for the scrapping of the act.

“It has proved to be unworkable, and has not yielded any positive results in driver behaviour or road safety. We believe the points demerit system would have worked, but the way the system has been implemented… it is too late to fix and should be scrapped.

“When motorists get caught, they simply pay bribes with few chances of any consequences for either the motorist or the traffic officer. Now that the fines are not payable because of the recent Roads Traffic Infringement Agency fiasco, things are going to be even worse. Drivers will do what they want without any consequences,” he said. -The Star


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