Proposed driver demerit system 'is unworkable’

14 November 2019 - 07:39
By Motor News Reporter
In its current form, Aarto legislation will not fix SA’s road accident problem, says Outa. Picture: SUPPLIED
In its current form, Aarto legislation will not fix SA’s road accident problem, says Outa. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has intensified its campaign against the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto), which aims to use demerit points against misbehaving drivers.

In submitting comment on the proposed act to the ministry of transport, the organisation called the proposed regulations complicated, costly and aimed at fund raising rather than road safety.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the bill into law in August, and the draft regulations were published for comment in October. The act sets up a demerit system for drivers, who lose points for traffic offences that may result in the loss of a driving licence.

Outa has highlighted several problems with Aarto, including electronic delivery of infringement notices, which it says is an unacceptable risk for motorists who may overlook these.

“The e-mail, SMS or voice message could easily be treated as junk mail or spam or could simply go unopened. There is nothing in this form of correspondence that emphasises the importance of the document to the recipient,” says Outa.

Outa says those who challenge their fines also lose their right to discounts. “So by following the regulations, motorists will be punished.”

Outa has also identified other problem areas, including:

  • The regulations say those who lose their licences due to the accumulation of the maximum demerit points may be informed by registered post or electronic means, but the Aarto act says only registered post may be used. This makes the regulation void.
  • There are no prescribed standards for rehabilitation programmes, which drivers must undertake to regain lost licences.
  • Appeals or reviews of decisions made in terms of Aarto notices will be heard by a single appeals tribunal, run by a chair and eight part-time members. Outa says this will require expensive overheads and will result in a huge administrative backlog.
  • The appeal or review process is “cumbersome, convoluted, highly technical, costly and not accessible to ordinary South Africans”, has unrealistic time frames and looks like a money-making process, says Outa.

“Ordinary South Africans will most probably rather elect to pay (even if they are not guilty of an infringement) to avoid the administrative hassle than to participate in a process that is nonsensical.”

Outa’s main problem with Aarto is that the intention of the legislation is to make money and not to promote road safety.

“What was created was a system that is complicated, expensive and cumbersome. Citizens are being forced to pay the infringements [whether guilty or not] in order to avoid a cumbersome process,” it says.

“Outa remains concerned about the high level of road fatalities in SA. We believe that these fatalities are largely due to the poor enforcement of traffic laws, a lack of traffic infringement management and a variety of problems in the management of vehicle and driver licensing.”

The organisation recommends that the transport minister go back to the drawing board with the regulations, as the current version will not withstand legal scrutiny.

“The administrative burden will also make enforcement virtually impossible, making the act’s purpose of road safety unattainable”.