AARTO demerit system
(Photo by Gallo Images/Jacques Stander)
  • South Africa's new traffic infringement laws will come into effect in four distinct phases.
  • Drivers will get demerit points for traffic offences and need to undergo a rehabilitation programme to earn back their suspended licenses.
  • But this will only be introduced in July 2022.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa's controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) regulations will be introduced in a phased approach – with demerit points for road infringements and rehabilitation for drivers with suspended licenses coming into effect in 2022.

The AARTO Act, which was first introduced in 1998 with the intention of curbing the carnage on South Africa's roads, has been amended and extended to impose harsher penalties on the country's bad drivers.

Managed by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), AARTO enforcement has been trialled in Tshwane and Johannesburg since 2008 while the rest of South Africa's road infringements are still prosecuted through the Criminal Procedure Act.

Civil society organisations and political parties have challenged efforts to apply the system nationally. Disputes lodged during the regulations' public comment phases have delayed the Act's implementation since 2019.

Despite a pending legal challenge, lodged by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) which seeks to have the Act ruled unconstitutional, AARTO was expected to come into effect on Thursday. A media briefing by the department of transport on the launch day revealed that, following advice from the state's legal advisory team, AARTO was still awaiting a presidential "proclamation notice" before the regulations could be properly implemented.

READ | 1,000 things can lead to your licence being suspended from next month – these are worst

Under the new Act drivers who accumulate more than 15 demerit points – which can be earned by violating more than 1,000 traffic laws – will have their licenses suspended. Challenging these penalties must be done through an Appeals Tribunal.

Drivers who lose their licenses due to repeated infringements – classified as "habitual infringers" – will be required to undergo a rehabilitation process to earn their licenses back.

But none of these regulations will come into effect this year, as was initially intended by the department of transport and RTIA. Instead, three foundational phases will first need to be rolled out. This is expected to take a year, with demerits and rehabilitation for bad drivers expected to come into effect between July 2022 and June 2023.

Phase 1 of the AARTO rollout, which officially began on Thursday, will establish seven national service outlets which inform drivers of the enforcement processes. It will also see the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) being incorporated to collect AARTO payments. This phase is expected to be completed by October 2021.

The second phase will identify the first 67 municipalities which will switch over to the AARTO regulations and to deploy 18 service outlets. The Appeals Tribunal process will also be finalised during this phase which is expected to be completed at the end of the year.

Phase 3 will see AARTO rollout to the remaining 144 municipalities by July 2022. The fourth and final phase will introduce the points demerit system, driver rehabilitation centres and 20 self-service kiosks.

"By the time we reach this milestone, there will be no excuses among our road users that they do not understand the implications and consequences of the AARTO processes," explained transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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