The Justice Project SA spokesperso, Howard Dembovsky and Automobile Association of SA spokesperson Layton Beard during a media about the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Amendment Bill, held in Centurion. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)
The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act was confusing and broken, and did not speak to the man on the street.

For that, it should be thrown away as it could not be fixed, the Justice Project SA and Automobile Association (AA) of SA said on Tuesday during a media briefing convened by the National Press Club. 

The briefing, held in Centurion, was aimed at raising concerns the two organisations had with the legislation, which included representation and lack of road safety among other things.

The act is in force in Joburg and Pretoria and is now in its final stages of public participation. Once adopted, the government plans to roll it out countrywide, with serious implications for vehicle owners and motorists. And these, the organisations said, would confuse the nation.

The amendment bill was passed in the National Assembly on September 5, with the aim to have it in place by the end of this financial year, March 31. The demerit system will see each driver starting on zero points and earning a certain amount of demerit points for each violation of traffic law. 

Once they reach 12 points, licences will be suspended. If a motorist gets three suspensions their licence would be cancelled, upon which they will have to redo their learner's and driving tests. 

It will also see habitual road hogs taken off as the demerit points system has edged closer to becoming the law.

But if motorists behave themselves and drive responsibly, they can earn back those points, to be reinstated at a rate of one point every three months, provided one incurred no more points over that period. 

Driving with a suspended or cancelled licence will see a driver’s licence suspended for a further year and a sentence of a year imprisonment.

Justice Project SA spokesperson Howard Dembovsky said: “What should happened with the Aarto Act is they should take it and throw it away because it is so broken it cannot be fixed.”

Dembovsky said he believed road safety should be the guiding principle of traffic legislation - not a complex administrative system that focuses on generating revenue for the state.

He also urged motorists to participate in public hearings which were under way in each province on Aarto.

“Anyone who holds a driving licence, or is the registered owner of a motor vehicle, should take the time to read and understand the provisions of the Aarto Amendment Bill and the underlying Aarto Act and to participate in these hearings in order to have their voices heard. Even if you consider yourself to be a law-abiding motorist, you must understand that the chances of the Aarto Act impacting on your life are high.”

Layton Beard, AA spokesperson, said their biggest concern was that the act did not touch much on road safety.

“There doesn’t seem to have been any go-forward in terms of implementation. It hasn’t materialised in anything in terms of reduction in the numbers of death and it also in our opinion hasn’t added to the broader issue of which in our opinion should be road safety.

“If you look at the amendment bill, very little is spoken about why the introduction of amendment bill is important from the road safety point of view and that is obviously very concerning to us,” he said.

Beard also had an issue with the wording, adding that it did not speak to ordinary citizens.

“It terms of the Amendment Bill itself, I think people like the Justice Project SA are doing South Africans a favour by translating it from the English which it was written in, to the English that is understandable. If you are a member of the public and you want to comment on the amendment bill you probably have to be an advocate and have a very deep legal background to understand.

“It is extremely confusing, we raised the issue in our submission on the amendment bill to Parliament that it does not speak to the man on the street and because of that it fails in one big area and that is to call for public engagement.”

In addition, he said the government communicated poorly around Aarto and motorists were confused.

“People, are generally very confused about Aarto and they are confused for a number of reasons, because we have been told it will be introduced, but it hasn’t, so people don’t know,” he said.

Pretoria News