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Drivers' demerit system still some way from being implemented

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published Oct 9, 2019

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President Cyril Ramaphosa might have signed into law a new act which will introduce a demerit system that could ultimately end with Joburg’s habitual traffic offenders driver’s licence being suspended.

But the controversial draft legislation, which is part of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Amendment Bill, appears to be some way from being implemented.

According to Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), the new system, which will see traffic offenders accumulating penalty points, together with a fine, has not yet come into effect.

“It will come into effect on a date still to be proclaimed by the president and this date must be gazetted,” OUTA’s chief legal officer Advocate Stefanie Fick said.

While Ramaphosa signed the act in August, Justice Project South Africa chairperson Howard Dembovsky echoed OUTA’s sentiments and added that much work needed to be completed before the new driving system was enforced.

“The impression is that the new system will be implemented in the coming days, but this is not the case.”

Dembovsky said the regulation still needed to be published for public comment before the minister of transport made an overall decision.

“Legislative and practical processes can’t be bypassed,” he said.

If all processes were adequately completed and the minister of transport approved the legislation, the Aarto Amendment Bill could have dire consequences on drivers if they continued their reckless ways on the city’s roads.

The new system will see traffic offenders accumulating penalty points, together with a fine.

It will work with each driver beginning with a clean slate of zero points.

Different traffic infringements will have different points. Driving without a licence will cost four demerit points. Drunk driving will be six demerit points, while using a cellphone while driving will be one point.

Once a driver exceeds 12 points, his or her licence would be suspended.

Three suspensions and the driver would permanently lose the licence.

With the demerit system will come new road traffic violation rules, which will remove the courts from the Aarto process and replace them with a dedicated authority.

This amendment, which was introduced as a pilot project in Johannesburg and Tshwane in 2008, was adopted by the National Council of Provinces.

While these traffic law changes had been hailed by many to make the province’s roads safer, the Automobile Association was not convinced this would be the case.

“We remain unconvinced that the system is going to have a meaningful impact on road safety,” AA spokesperson Layton Beard said.

“We consider that many of the provisions do not deal with road safety enough and that the system remains a mechanism to generate revenue.”

OUTA added while they supported efforts to improve road safety, they believed the act was “irrational, impractical, legally flawed and not the best solution”.

As a result, Fick said they were planning to challenge the new act through the Constitutional Court.

Despite criticism of a possible driving demerit system, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) said it would usher in a new and humane order in road traffic management.

“The implementation of the points demerit system will objectively identify non-compliant road users and systematically remove reckless drivers from our road network,” RTIA spokesperson Monde Mkalipi said.

He added the introduction of the electronic service would empower road users to resolve their traffic fines speedily.

The Saturday Star

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