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Automobile Association and Santaco welcome court ruling declaring Aarto demerit system invalid

A sign saying what striking taxi drivers think of AARTO and being forced to pay bribes. Picture: Etienne Creux

A sign saying what striking taxi drivers think of AARTO and being forced to pay bribes. Picture: Etienne Creux

Published Jan 16, 2022

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DURBAN - THE Automobile Association (AA) and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) have both welcomed the decision by the Pretoria High Court to declare the Administration and Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) Act invalid and unconstitutional.

The Aarto system would have seen drivers penalised through a demerit point system for infringements and regular offenders would have seen their drivers licence suspended or even cancelled.

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Layton Beard from the AA said it welcomed the judgment as it vindicated the association’s position that the Aarto Act was drafted without sufficient care.

“As early as a few months after the 2008 launch of the Aarto pilot project in the Johannesburg and Tshwane Metros, the shortcomings of the Act became clear in practice. Attempts to rectify these shortcomings only created further issues, and now a court has found that the Department of Transport, in drafting Aarto, did not consider the fundamental issue of whether the system passed constitutional muster.”

Beard said the association has previously described Aarto as unworkable and geared towards revenue collection instead of promoting road safety.

“It has been a vast waste of taxpayers’ money which has done nothing to remedy South Africa's shocking road death rate. There is no evidence that the Aarto pilot project has saved a single life.”

Beard said the association feels there’s no point in going back to the drawing board.

“Aarto was assented to in 1998, and its design started much earlier. The court itself has found that the deficiencies are not curable. After almost a quarter of a century of failure, the government would be wise to concede defeat.”

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Beard said that the association reiterated its previous stance, which is that traffic fines should be dealt with in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, with some legislative amendments to protect motorists in cases where delivery of fines and service of summonses was not conducted in accordance with the law.

“A points-demerit system, which is one of the keystones of Aarto, could, according to the AA, be implemented as part of the judicial process. This is how points-demerit has been implemented in other parts of the world for half a century or longer. The AA itself called for such a system as long ago was 1963, and we would be willing to work with the government to help create it, just as we have assisted in developing many other aspects of traffic law.”

Sifiso Shangase, spokesperson for Santaco in KwaZulu-Natal, said the organisation was happy with the ruling .

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“We understand that the Aarto demerit system was put in place to reduce accidents but it would also impact our operations. If our drivers faced the demerit system they would have their licence suspended or cancelled and that would have affected our operations as there would have been taxis and no drivers. It would have been a lengthy process to apply for a driver’s licence. We admit that this would have served as a deterrent to bad driving but we also have to consider the commuters who rely on taxis for transport.”

THE MERCURY

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