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Aarto starts today, but demerit points delayed by another year

New traffic laws will be implemented in a phased approach, says Fikile Mbalula

The Aarto phased roll-out, intended to stem the carnage on SA’s roads, will take place over 12 months starting on July 1 2021.
The Aarto phased roll-out, intended to stem the carnage on SA’s roads, will take place over 12 months starting on July 1 2021.
Image: Reuters

The much-awaited new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto)  will be rolled out nationally in a phased approach from today, but the licence demerit points system has been further delayed by a year.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said today that the act will be introduced in four phases, culminating in the coming online of the Points Demerit System (PDS) on July 1 2022.

Traffic violations are currently handled as criminal offences, but the Aarto Amendment Act passed in 2019 decriminalises most traffic violations and seeks to deal with them via an administrative rather than criminal process.

Old traffic fines incurred under the Criminal Procedures Act will have to be paid, and there is no “clean slate” for previous offenders with the introduction of Aarto.

In a country that sees around 14,000 road deaths a year, the PDS aims to penalise repeat driving offenders through a points demerit system. Drivers will start with 0 points and be allowed to drive until they reach a maximum 15 points.

A driver who collects more than 15 points will have their driver’s licence suspended for up to three months. Three suspensions will result in a licence being cancelled. The driver will then have to retake the learner’s licence and driving tests.

Mbalula said the first phase of the roll-out from July 1 to September 30 2021 is intended to increase the footprint of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) nationally to be closer to the through seven Aarto service outlets and online services such as the Aarto website and the Aarto mobile application.

These service outlets will allow the public to exercise their Aarto elective options, especially those in rural communities. Issuing authorities in all provinces will be in a position to facilitate access to the elective options and give the public the ability to pay for their infringements anywhere in the country.

This phase will be accompanied by aggressive public awareness and education campaigns to ensure all road users are empowered with Aarto education in a language they understand.

The second phase from October 1 to December 31 2021 will see 77 local and metropolitan municipalities coming online with the Aarto process.

The adjudication process and appeals tribunal will be set in motion to help infringers resolve their traffic infringements with ease without burdening the courts of law. If an alleged infringer is not in agreement with the adjudication results, they can approach the independent appeals tribunal as a recourse in the administrative justice process.

This will reduce the burden on the courts and decriminalise traffic infringements, save for offences that will be dealt with by the courts, said Mbalula.

This will be adopted to ensure a seamless transition, further enhanced with the coming online of another 18 Aarto service outlets with intensified public awareness and education campaigns.

The third phase of the rollout will run from January 1 to June 30 2022 and will be characterised by the coming on board of the remaining 144 local municipal areas.

The fourth phase will wrap up the entire implementation of Aarto from July 1 2022 when the PDS and driver rehabilitation programmes will be introduced.

“By the time we reach this milestone, there will be no excuse among our road users that they do not understand the implications and consequences of the Aarto process,” said Mbalula.

“Considering the significant impact the points demerit system will have on the public, it is critical intensive public awareness and education campaigns are intensified to ensure every road user in the country understands the implications of the suspension and cancellation of licences due to non-compliant behavior with road traffic laws,” he said.

“We must be mindful that Aarto is being introduced to save lives, and if you are compliant with all road traffic laws you have nothing to worry about. SA  has to remain true to the commitments made to the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021–2030. We have made a commitment to arresting the carnage on our roads and committed to reimagine our approach to road safety and making sure our people arrive alive when using our roads."

Road users will be able to view and query their fines on the www.aarto.gov.za website or Aarto mobile app, where they can nominate the driver of the vehicle, apply for representation, apply for a revocation of an enforcement order, or arrange to pay their fines in instalments up to a period of six months.

There has been opposition to Aarto from the Automobile Association (AA) and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), with the latter filing a high court application against the Aarto Act, asking for it to be declared unconstitutional.

The organisation said government should not have proceeded the nationwide roll-out on July 1 until the constitutional challenge has been heard on October 18 and 19 2021.

Like the AA, Outa has been an outspoken critic of the act and believes Aarto will not achieve its objectives of improving road safety and reducing fatalities.

“Aarto was rolled out in Gauteng 10 years ago and failed spectacularly. Statistics do not support the claim it will lead to a reduction in fatalities on roads,” said Outa.