Insider insights: How to make sure you don’t have any outstanding fines
JOHANNESBURG — If you are planning a much-needed break this coming Easter weekend, the last thing you need is to be pulled over by traffic police and hauled off to jail in handcuffs for unpaid traffic fines.
The reality is that many South African motorists don’t even know they have outstanding fines or even warrants of arrest. Barry Berman, chief executive of Fines SA, explains why, and offers advice on how to avoid a run-in with the police while en route to your holiday destination.
Don’t wait for snail mail
The Easter weekend is just around the corner and Berman urges motorists to pay their outstanding fines well before embarking on their journeys. This is because it takes time for fines to be received, processed and paid. “If motorists are counting on receiving their fines through the post, they should be prepared for a long wait,” he says. “The reality is that many motorists don’t even receive their infringement notices or warrants and are invariably unaware they have them. So, if they are pulled over, the traffic officer is entitled to arrest the driver.”
Berman advises motorists to always “know their traffic fine status”. “The difficulty for motorists is that fines are posted and hardly ever reach the person, and secondly, fines may have been incurred in other regions of South Africa if the driver travelled or used a rental car.”
How to check if you have fines
Once you’ve registered on the Fines SA website, your fines are pulled from all municipalities across the country. Berman says the system is updated daily, so you will always know your status when it comes to traffic fines. “The system is also currently being upgraded to become a portal, which will mean a one-time log-in for users, and all information currently on the site will be migrated to the portal, which will be operational in approximately two weeks. It will also allow users to add other ID numbers, for example those of family members, and companies can add additional business registration numbers for their company vehicles.”
Paying fines without hassle
Paying fines the traditional way is time-consuming and inconvenient. “If motorists are planning to settle their fines a day or two before going on holiday, they’re taking a big risk, as it’s not a quick process,” says Berman. “Aarto and other municipalities have a backlog and if there’s a warrant out against the motorist, they will have to go to court, so it can take a few days to resolve.”
If you are pulled over and arrested, this would not only be embarrassing for you, he notes, but awkward and distressing for fellow travellers.
Obey local traffic regulations
Vitally important is to also adhere to the rules of the road and be a courteous, considerate and safe driver. Berman says: “Always observe road signs carefully, as speed limits can change from time to time, especially if roadworks are being carried out. Average distance cameras are used, which measure drivers from one point to another, so a driver can’t always see the camera and slow down. Speed cameras have become very sophisticated, so motorists must control their speed and look out for speed-limit signs.”
If you are a proxy
Berman says that another key challenge often encountered at a roadblock is that a secretary, managing director, chief executive or another representative of a company might be the proxy for that company and is, therefore, responsible for the company’s fines. If that person is stopped by traffic police, any fines or warrants against other employees of the company become the responsibility of the proxy, and that person can be arrested. “The proxies might have forgotten about the documents they signed. They may have even left the company and not had their names removed as proxies, but they are still liable for the fines,” he adds.
If you’re lending your car to someone
Another scenario to be aware of is that when friends or family members of a registered car-owner are driving the car and incur a fine, the registered owner is responsible for that fine. The owner might not even be aware of the fine, but if they are pulled over, they are accountable.
Berman advises all motorists to visit the Fines SA website to learn more about fines and Aarto.