... cops ready for demerit system

READY: City traffic officials have already been trained to implement the Aarto system once it becomes law.

TRAFFIC officials in Kimberley are ready for the implementation of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill (Aarto Amendment Bill), which will see the implementation of the demerits point system.

The bill was passed by the National Assembly earlier this week, bringing it one step closer to being signed into law.

From here, it will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for adoption and then for President Jacob Zuma to be signed into law.

Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, yesterday welcomed the passing of the bill by the National Assembly, pointing out that it was a direct result of the untenable and unsustainable road safety challenge in South Africa.

“South Africa has been experiencing a tremendous loss of lives, especially of young people, as well as the continued disregard of road traffic laws,” Maswanganyi stated.

In 2014 there were 10 364 crashes that caused 12 702 fatalities; in 2015 there were 10 613 crashes that caused 12 994 fatalities; and in 2016 there were 11 676 crashes that caused 14 071 fatalities.

“So as a country, we need to act with resolve and turnaround this unfortunate situation. We must act with conviction and take responsibility for our situation,” Maswanganyi stated.

Referring to the demerit point system, he explained that it would provide for an easy and objective mechanism of identifying habitual infringers so that the applicable penalties can be imposed.

“Those that continue to break the laws will find themselves ultimately losing their driving licences through suspensions and cancellations of their driver’s licences. We must remember that a driving licence always belongs to the government and everyone that wants to exercise this benefit must comply with the conditions related there,” Maswanganyi warned.

He added, however, that Aarto did not only provide for a punitive measure but also for the rehabilitation of drivers that might have lost their driving licences.

“Drivers can redeem themselves through the rehabilitation programmes. In this way, we can influence those drivers to change their behaviour to easy compliance with road traffic laws,” he stated.

According to Maswanganyi, the Amendment Bill also makes dealing with infringements very easy and quick and that it will be done through the Appeals Tribunal.

“The tribunal will eliminate the backlog and burden of dealing with infringements through the courts. This will eliminate the burden and bottlenecks from the criminal justice system.

“The act makes provision for the electronic service of documents, which will make it easier for all road users to be informed of the status of their infringements. The electronic service of documents will further have low cost benefits to the state and the road user.”

The bill is not without controversy and has come under severe criticism, including being labelled as a bureaucratic nightmare that will be costly to implement.

The Justice Project South Africa described the bill as “more bad news for motorists”, adding that it “brought with it some pretty ominous provisions with serious implications for holders of driving licences and/or owners of motor vehicles”.

The organisation points out that amongst the amendments are the complete removal of the courts from the Aarto process, making it compulsory instead to make written representations to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA).

“This is a state-owned enterprise, funded almost entirely by traffic fine revenues.”

A newly created tribunal will hear appeals on RTIA decisions.

“Applications for appeal/review must be made to that tribunal within 30 days of the adverse decision and must be accompanied by the payment of a fee, still to be determined by the Minister of Transport,” the Justice Project stated.

“Failure to act within the prescribed timeframe will speedily lead to the issuing of an enforcement order which blocks the issuing of a driving licence, a professional driving permit, any permit or licence issued in terms of any road traffic legislation or transport legislation and/or the issue of a vehicle licence disc, along with the imposition of demerit points on the alleged infringer’s driving licence.

“In addition, demerit points will now be applied against the driving licences of proxies for juristic entities (companies, etc) which are registered owners of motor vehicles – in relation to infringements committed by other people who drive those vehicles. The actual drivers who commit such infringements will be able to evade the points demerit system, by simply driving vehicles registered to juristic entities.

“Clearly delinquent drivers must be taken to task for their transgressions and suspending the driving licences of habitual offenders may assist in that regard.” Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of JPSA, said.

“However, the more the Aarto Act is tampered with, the more it focusses the disposal of what are seen to be ‘bothersome provisions’ of law which stand in the way of the revenue generation process and the less it focusses on road safety. This travesty simply cannot go unchallenged.”

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson, Sello Matsie, said yesterday that local traffic authorities were ready for the implementation of the new bill. “Officers have undergone training and are in a position to effect the prescriptions of the bill, including the implementation of the demerit system.”

He explained that the system would be linked nationally.