The amended Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) regulations are being phased in nationally from 1 July, 2021.

However, the point-based license demerit system isn’t due to kick in until 1 July, 2022.

This is after delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subject to the outcome of an on-going court challenge.

What is AARTO?

The AARTO Act was passed in 1998. Key among its provisions is the introduction of a points-based licence demerit system for traffic offences. See below for a summary of how the point-based demerit system will work.

The Act also allows for electronic serving of infringement documents and the creation of “rehabilitation centres” for those who have had their licences cancelled.

What is the AARTO Amendment Act?

Currently, traffic violations in South Africa are handled as criminal offences. Fines are issued and progressed in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Act, and offences are prosecuted in court by the National Prosecuting Authority.

The AARTO Amendment Act, which was passed in 2019, decriminalises most traffic violations.

This means that most traffic violations will be dealt with via an administrative, rather than criminal, process.

The amended AARTO process

The amended AARTO process involves three main steps:

1) issuing an infringement notice

A driver may be served with an infringement notice on the spot (roadside) or this notice may be delivered after the fact to the registered vehicle owner.

The recipient then has 32 days to:

  • pay a 50% discounted fine and incur applicable demerit points
  • arrange to pay the full fine in instalments and incur applicable demerit points
  • submit a written representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) contesting the alleged violation, or
  • nominate the driver if this was someone else.

2) issuing a courtesy letter

If the recipient doesn’t respond within 32 days, a courtesy letter will be issued.

The recipient then has a further 32 days to:

  • pay the full fine plus R200 – consisting of a so-called infringement penalty levy (IPL) of R100 plus a courtesy letter fee of R100 – and incur the applicable demerit points, or
  • submit a written representation to the RTIA contesting the fine.

3) issuing an enforcement order

If the recipient doesn’t respond within a further 32 days, an enforcement order is issued.

The applicable demerit points are applied and the recipient is blocked from performing licensing transactions on eNaTIS. This means no driving licence, professional driving permit or vehicle licence disc may be issued.

To comply with the order, the recipient will need to pay the full fine plus R300 (R100 each for the IPL, courtesy letter and enforcement order).

The alleged infringer has a final 32 days after the enforcement order is served to apply to the RTIA for the order to be revoked.

How the AARTO point-based system will work

A driver (owner, operator or “juristic person”) will start with zero points. For each offence, the driver will be allocated between one and six points – depending on the seriousness of the offence.

A person who collects more than 15 points will have his or her driver’s licence suspended for up to three months.

For each demerit point over the threshold of 15, a three-month suspension will be incurred. A driver with 19 points, for example, will lose his or her licence for a year.

Three suspensions will result in a licence being cancelled. The driver will then have to retake the learner’s licence and driving tests. Driving or operating a vehicle during suspension is a criminal offence subject to a fine or imprisonment (plus a further six demerit points on conviction).

If a driver who has incurred points has a clean record for three months, one point will be deducted from his or her record.

Updated: proposed four-phase introduction of AARTO

Initial plans to introduce the demerit system over three phases, starting in 2021, were scuppered.

According to Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, AARTO is now due to be implemented over four phases. The last of these, culimating on 1 July, 2022, will involve introducing the allocation of demerit points.

Phase I

The focus during the first phase, from 1 July to 30 September, 2021, is on setting up AARTO services and creating public awareness about the new system.

Phase II

During the second phase, from 1 October to 31 December, certain key local and metropolitan municipalities are to be brought online with the AARTO process.

An adjudication process and appeals tribunal will also be implemented. This is to enable individuals to resolve traffic infringements without burdening the courts.

Additional AARTO service outlets will be set up, and education campaigns will continue.

Phase III

The third phase is set to run from 1 January to 30 June, 2022. During this period, the remaining 144 local municipal areas are due to adopt the AARTO system.

Phase IV

The fourth phase, from 1 July, 2022, will introduce the point-based demerit system and driver rehabilitation programmes.

AARTO and the OUTA court challenge

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has filed a Pretoria High Court application for both the AARTO Act and the AARTO Amendment Act to be declared unconstitutional.

OUTA argues that the legislation will not improve road safety; is logistically cumbersome; and paves the way for corruption.

According to an OUTA spokesperson, “While OUTA believes that measures to improve road safety and reduce fatalities are urgently needed, we believe that the AARTO Amendment Act will not achieve this.”

The spokesperson also noted that, “AARTO was rolled out in Gauteng 10 years ago and failed spectacularly. Statistics do not support the claim that it will lead to a reduction in fatalities on roads.”

OUTA also claims that the new Act may be used as a mechanism to force Gauteng motorists to pay e-tolls.

The Automobile Association (AA) also opposes the new regulations. It says the Act appears to be geared towards revenue collection rather than road safety.


What we offer at DSC Attorneys

At DSC Attorneys, we don’t offer expert advice about AARTO or assist in cases involving road traffic offences.

If you have a claim against the Road Accident Fund (RAF), however, we can help. Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team are committed to helping road accident victims get the compensation they deserve, in as short a period as possible.

Too often, we encounter the tragic consequences of reckless or negligent driving. Whatever form a new system takes, let’s hope it helps make South Africa’s roads safer for everyone.

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