File picture: Paballo Thekiso

 

Johannesburg - Wake up and start driving better! When the government introduces the points demerit system, one in 10 bad drivers in Gauteng will have their driving licences suspended and one in 20 will have them cancelled.

That’s the shock conclusion from an analysis of road traffic offences committed in 2014 and 2015 under the points demerit system under the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) which has been undergoing a trial run in Gauteng for the past five years.

It is expected that the system will be introduced fully next year, which means that the points deductions from licences will be real and not just theoretical.

Under the system, drivers are allowed to accumulate 12 demerit points before their licences are suspended or even cancelled.

The analysis of the trial period figures makes for startling reading.

In the past financial year (2014/2015), 307 753 drivers in the province committed offences which would have accumulated points deductions had the system been fully operational.

If the system had been running, 29 616 licences would have been suspended and 14 748 would have been cancelled.

That means that a huge number of Gauteng drivers could end up being on our roads illegally, when Aarto is rolled out nationally next year.

Japh Chuwe, registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, said the national roll-out of Aarto would begin in April 2016 followed by the demerit points system.

He said Aarto makes a direct contribution to road safety.

Howard Dembovsky, the founder of the Justice Project SA, told the Saturday Star he was not surprised by the number of projected suspended and cancelled licences.

“If anything, it surprises me that there are so few. Generally, the way people drive in this country, if law enforcement was done properly, those figures would be more like a million in the first two weeks.

“We have a whole lot of absolute hooligans on the road.”

The roll-out has been held back by the promulgation of the Aarto Amendment Bill, according to Chuwe.

“The key element provided for in the bill is the electronic serving of fines to motorists. The benefit is people will get their fines much quicker,” he said. “We have done everything that is required from our side. The tabling of an amendment bill in Parliament is beyond our control.”

Provisions of the new National Road Traffic Act regulations, Chuwe said, would make it compulsory for all motorists who renew their licences to provide proof of residence, as they do at the banks.

He said the agency would also verify the last updated details of motorists with the credit bureaus.

“The more information we have, the more credible our database is going to be.

“We all understand that too many people are dying on our roads. It’s not good enough to look at this as a statistical base.”

Chuwe said the demerit point system was a “great equaliser” on one level between the rich and the poor.

“When you’re a multimillionaire you may not feel the pain of a penalty of R1 500, whereas if you’re a gardener you would,” he said.

“But the demerit points say once you are levied, irrespective of whether you’re poor or rich, you will all be subjected to the same thing.”

Dembovsky supports the points demerit system wholeheartedly, but remains critical of the delays in rolling the system out countrywide.

“They have been piloting this thing for five years with two jurisdictions out of 287 municipalities, nine provincial authorities and the national traffic police.

“The sooner they bring in the points demerit system, the better. But the problem with traffic police is that their focus is on revenue generation as opposed to physical law enforcement, which would make a difference.

“If you’re sitting taking photos because you need to drive revenues, you’re never going to change behaviour.

“All that’s going to happen when they bring this points system in is that some people will get their driver’s licences cancelled. They won’t be able to get to work and so will continue to drive with suspended licences because the chances of them getting caught are practically zero.

“If you transform the way in which traffic policing operates, if that is done, the system will have an effect.”

Chuwe added that the system was not a punitive measure but would be used as rehabilitative tool.

Not all traffic offences will lead to accumulation of demerit points according to Chuwe.

 

A motorist’s licence can be suspended for three months for every point above the 12 points threshold a year.

Some examples of the points deductions are:

* Going through a red light;

* Speeding;

* Drunk driving;

* Unroadworthy vehicles.

Drunk driving remained one of the main factors in crashes, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said on Friday. – Additional reporting by Sheree Bega

Saturday Star