Back in February 2019, the South African Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport accepted the final changes to the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) bill, which President Cyril Ramaphosa has now finally signed into law. The new demerit system for South African road users is now law.

The proposed points system is very similar to what is already used in several European countries. Essentially, points are added onto motorists’ licenses if they commit a road offence. Once the motorist has reached a certain number of points, the license can be suspended and if the motorist continues to commit offences, the license can be taken away or effectively cancelled.

It is not clear when the law will come into effect, but some of the biggest changes include:

  • Each driver will start with zero points (irrespective of the number of classes of vehicle licenses held).
  • Depending on the severity of the offence, one to six points are allocated for offences. If a driver collects more than 12 points, it will result in the suspension (disqualification) of the driving license. Three suspensions will result in its cancellation.
  • Failing to pay traffic fines can lead to a block on obtaining a driver’s license and an administrative fee, in addition to other penalties.
  • The driver may apply for the return of the license on expiry of the suspension (disqualification) period.
  • Demerit points will be reduced (for all persons/operators) at a flat rate of one point every three months (or as otherwise prescribed), except when it is evident that the process has been deliberately delayed obtaining a reduction in points.
  • Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the Post Office, authorities will now also be able to serve documents electronically and send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS.
  • The establishment of an appeals tribunal, which will preside over issues raised under the bill.

What this means is that if you do not pay your traffic fines, you may be blocked from renewing your driving and vehicle licenses. Previously, documents had to be sent via registered mail, but this bill now means that documents can be served by email with reminders over WhatsApp and SMS. Frustratingly, the option for motorists to challenge the prosecution in court has been removed.

The points system is not a bad one and it’ll quickly send a message to those flouting the law. The key issue, as ever, is enforcement and getting the visible policing out on the roads to catch the offenders. Do you think the points system will have any effect on stemming the carnage on South Africa’s roads?

By Noni Nchwe