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Should the Administrative Adjudication of Road Offences Amendment Bill be passed, drivers would have the option of receiving their traffic fines electronically or via registered mail.
This is one of the proposals in the bill, say the Road Traffic Management Corporation and Road Traffic Infringement Agency, which moved this week to clear up confusion over whether sending fines by registered mail would fall away.
The agency is responsible for the implementation of the Aarto Act, which was introduced in its pilot phase in the Tshwane and Johannesburg municipalities in 2008 – 10 years after the law was enacted.
Howard Dembovsky, national chairman of activist body the Justice Project South Africa, has described the proposal as vague.
The phrase “electronic service” used in the bill was not defined, said Dembovsky, and he felt it could be interpreted to mean any form of electronic communication, including SMS, Facebook or Twitter.
However, the agency’s deputy registrar, Sherman Amos, has allayed concerns, saying “electronic service” will be defined when the bill is finalised.
The act was to have been rolled out nationally by November 2010, but was plagued by teething problems, which led to its being amended, and the roll-out was delayed until April 2012.
The agency said earlier this year that the national roll-out was now expected in the 2013/14 financial year.
The draft amendment bill was published in the Government Gazette on February 20 this year, and the public has until March 23 to comment.
According to the agency, the Aarto system was intended to encourage compliance with the law, allocate demerit points to traffic offenders, reduce road accidents, and make South African roads safer.
It felt the present system of fine collection was inadequate. Fines either were not paid, were reduced without regard to the impact of human behaviour, or bribes were paid to get off paying the fine.
Except for the Tshwane and Johannesburg municipalities, all the other municipalities in the country operated separately when it came to issuing and paying fines. With the implementation of the act, the National Contraventions Register would provide a single national database for the management of all traffic contraventions.
Agency spokeswoman Mthunzikazi Mbungwana said the bill was intended to introduce an efficient way of serving documents, which was why electronic fine notification was mooted.
“Motorists have an option to choose between their correspondence being sent to them via e-mail or post. They can receive their fines via registered or personal service or other legislative means. Their details will be updated when they are renewing their licences or registering their cars. Issuing of fines and enquiries will be dealt with by a call centre,” she said.
RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail said should the bill be passed and motorists chose the e-mail option, a fine would be e-mailed with the understanding that the e-mail had been received and read. Should a motorist not pay the fine after 32 days, a courtesy letter would be sent stating that he or she had forfeited his or her discount. Failing that, there would be an enforcement order. A motorist would not be able to renew his or her driving licence or car registration until he or she had paid the outstanding fine.
Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher of the Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said the proposal appeared to be complicated, and applying it would be problematic.
“We have become a very lawless society in our use of roads, and it has become a challenge for authorities to get people to pay their fines. I do have sympathy for them looking for a viable option not only to have money paid, but for it to act as a real deterrent to drivers. But they should rather look for a more simplified way. I’m not convinced this is the answer,” Burger said.
Dembovsky asked what constituted an “electronic service”. He referred to a landmark ruling by Durban High Court Judge Esther Steyn in August 2012, when she allowed a summons to be served on a Ramsgate resident via Facebook.
She had ruled it was not unreasonable for the law to recognise changes in communication technology and to accommodate them. She also said Facebook could be used as an effective tracing tool and that it could relay information to the individuals concerned.
In response, Amos said sending a fine to someone via Facebook would only be used in extreme circumstances.
He said a fine would not be sent via SMS, but a motorist could, for example, receive an SMS notifying receipt of his application to nominate another driver or to reduce a fine. - Daily News