INTERVIEW | Investigating the ‘fine line’ with Barry Berman

10 March 2021 - 13:34 By Motoring Reporter
Fines SA estimates there are about R100bn worth of unpaid traffic fines in SA.
Fines SA estimates there are about R100bn worth of unpaid traffic fines in SA.
Image: File photo

Q&A with Barry Berman, CEO of Fines SA, a vehicle services administration company specialising in helping customers keep tabs on and settle road traffic infringements.

Post-lockdown driving: are motorists behaving?

Motorists are incurring fewer fines and penalties and this is only because of the pandemic. Most activities were on slow down as per the president’s lockdown regulations. However, with the country in an eased lockdown (level 1), we foresee many drivers embarking on holidays and visits again, especially during the upcoming Easter holidays. It is important to note that better technology is being deployed on our roads with average speed over distance (ASOD) cameras so the process of issuing fines has improved dramatically.

How is your business working around the administrative hiccups and backlogs induced by the pandemic at our traffic departments?

Our online portal is launching soon which will allow motorists to check the status of their fines from the comfort of their homes and make payment. It’s a less contact intensive process and the use of technology has greatly assisted us in streamlining processes.

Fines are an important revenue stream for government. The sad irony is that it is in their best interests for motorists to flout the rules. From your perspective, is there a more sustainable plan to foster more responsible driving habits, instead of planting metro officers behind shrubs, for example?

Several countries around the world have adopted the “four Es” strategy, with SA  among them. Although there are variations to this approach, this system has been introduced successfully in many countries. The 4 Es are: enforcement (heavy and visible); education (supporting enforcement); engineering (involving low-cost remediation in hazardous locations as well as vehicle engineering standards); and evaluation (research and data collection). The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) system with the new demerit points launching in July will be a big wake up call for errant drivers.

According to your data, how many fines are unpaid in SA?

It has never been made public but our conservative estimates are at around R100bn.

Defiant motorists who ignore the rules, what consequences are in store?

Phase one of the demerit points system will be rolled out in July. This means drivers can be penalised for speeding, running red lights, ignoring road signs and dangerous overtaking.

A car’s roadworthiness can also lead to a penalty – faulty brakes, lamps and uninflated tyres could cost you points. Demerit points for a single offence range from one to six, depending on the severity of the incident. You get one point knocked off your demerit list for every three months you go without a penalty. It would take three months to lose one point, six months to lose two points, nine months to lose three points etc.

You are allowed to rack up a maximum of 15 points on your licence. But, for every point over the 15-mark, it will add a three-month suspension onto your licence. You are allowed two disqualifications. Upon a third disqualification, your driving licence will be revoked. You’ll then have to reapply for a new learner’s licence after your disqualification period finishes.