Aarto Bill 'seems to be about making money, not saving lives' - AA

The Aarto system that was tested in Johannesburg and Tshwane has failed to reduce road accidents, says the AA.
The Aarto system that was tested in Johannesburg and Tshwane has failed to reduce road accidents, says the AA.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The Automobile Association (AA) has slammed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Amendment Bill, saying its provisions around demerit points appear to be geared more towards revenue collection than road safety.

The national assembly earlier this month passed the bill and sent it to President Cyril Ramaphosa to be signed into law.

"In principle, the AA is in favour of a demerit system for drivers. It is something we have always backed and supported, even as far back as the 1960s, when such a system was first mooted, and as recently as the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it was again on the table," said the AA.

"This punishes frequent road traffic offenders, while those who obey the rules of the road have nothing to fear.

"However, many of the proposed amendments to the bill now before the president are worrisome and raise questions about the practicality of the system’s implementation."

The AA argues that road safety rather than revenue generation should be a central theme of such a system. The fact that similar fines and demerits are proposed for not wearing a seatbelt and for driving an unregistered vehicle points to road users' safety not being government's primary concern.

"In our view, not wearing a seatbelt should carry a much stiffer monetary punishment and accompanying high-value points demerit. If making our roads safer is the objective, let's start here," said the AA.

Another concern is the constitutionality of certain amendments in relation to the issuing of fines via e-mail instead of through traditional mail.

The most egregious components of the Amendment Bill, according to the AA, relate to the rights of infringers and fleet owners. In terms of challenging an infringement, a person must use the channels of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) - the body that is reliant on revenue from fines for its very existence.

"This, in the AA’s opinion, violates the infringer's rights to a fair hearing and places it with an organ of state it doesn’t believe can be impartial in this matter," said the AA.

"As for fleet owners or managers, the burden the amendment bill places on them is immense - especially as any demerits earned on these vehicles will go directly against their personal names. This is wholly unfair and again does not address what should be a predominant feature of this system: road safety."

According to the AA, the piloted roll-out of Aarto in Tshwane and Johannesburg was not implemented properly as only fines and no demerit points were issued - meaning that amendments to the Aarto Bill are being made without proper testing of the system.

"The existing system as it was implemented has also proven to be largely unsuccessful, especially when measured against fatal road crashes in the province. In 2014 there were 2,136 fatal road crashes in Gauteng; in 2015 there were 2,171; 2,385 in 2016; and 2,398 in 2017. Instead of declining, these crashes have increased - all while the limited Aarto implementation was in force in the province," said the AA.

The association added that despite the public consultation around Aarto, it seems little consideration was given to the many submissions that raised these and other issues, including those from the AA.

"Our overall impression ... is that any system which tinkers with the punishment of offenders, instead of deals with the more important issues of stopping offenders, is not going to work. Essentially, unless people fear getting caught in the first place, there is no usefulness to a demerit system.

"This means there must be increased investment and focus on providing appropriately resourced and deployed traffic law enforcement around the country."


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