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What you need to know about the demerit system for road users

19 August 2019 - 11:06 By Unathi Nkanjeni
President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed Aarto into law and it will be introduced in Tshwane and Johannesburg before being implemented countrywide.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed Aarto into law and it will be introduced in Tshwane and Johannesburg before being implemented countrywide.
Image: iStock Images

The new demerit system for South African road users is now law. President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) bill on August 13.

Here is what you need to know:

How it will work

The Aarto law was passed by the National Assembly in March. It is a demerit system for drivers who lose points for traffic offences, which may result in the loss of a driving licence.

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 licences 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 licence. Three suspensions will result in its cancellation.
  • Failing to pay traffic fines can lead to a block on obtaining a driver's licence and an administrative fee, in addition to other penalties.
  • The driver may apply for the return of the licence 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 to obtain 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.

'The system will help reduce road carnage'

Minister of transport Fikile Mbalula said he was optimistic the demerit system would help to reduce road carnage.

Addressing the media, he said the government was determined to win the battle against disobedient motorists and persistent road fatalities.

“They must know when they see a police officer that the laws must be respected. Not even an attempt must be made to think that you can bribe an officer,” said Mbalula.

Assessing law enforcement in Johannesburg and Tshwane, where Aarto is being implemented, he said the system was not just about punishment but intended “to ensure compliance and change of road users’ behaviour.

“We look forward to working with officials at all spheres of government as we put in place the necessary regulations for the rollout.

“We’ve won an important battle, but the war against road fatalities is not yet over, as we look at many victories ahead of ensuring safer roads.”