The New AARTO Act: A Quick Overview

by Nida Jooste

Nida Jooste is an Associate in the litigation department and can be e-mailed at nida@venns.co.za.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment bill, which bill will come into effect once published in the Government Gazette. Some of the main implications for vehicle owners, drivers and operators are as follows:

  1. A demerit system is introduced whereby you are allocated demerit points when committing a traffic infringement*;
  2. Your driver’s licence will be suspended if you reach the maximum points allowed in terms of the demerit system;
  3. If your licence has been suspended three times, your licence will be confiscated and you will need to re-apply for your driver’s licence;
  4. Failure to adequately respond to an infringement notice or courtesy letter will result in the authorities not issuing a permit, driver’s licence or licence disc until the penalty is paid or revoked;
  5. Notices can be sent electronically in addition to utilising registered mail;
  6. Law abiding behaviour will reduce a road user’s demerit points.

Penalty Procedure:

In short, you will be issued with an infringement notice which must be complied with within 32 days. Should you elect to pay the penalty, a discounted rate may apply. A courtesy letter will be sent to you if you fail to respond to the infringement notice. You have to respond to the courtesy letter within 32 days, failing which an enforcement notice will be issued. You will be unable to renew your driver’s licence, licence disc or professional driver’s permit if an enforcement notice has been issued against you. You will need to comply with the enforcement notice or apply to have it revoked should you wish to have the aforementioned licences issued.

Both the infringement notice and the courtesy letter will provide you with various options, mainly being:

  1. To pay / make arrangements to pay the stipulated penalty;
  2. Make representations to the authorities that you were not the driver of the motor vehicle and provide the details of the driver who committed the infringement;
  3. To elect to be tried in court for the alleged offence.

Demerit points will only be allocated once an infringer complies with an infringement notice by paying the penalty.

As will be clear from the above, the Act seeks to alleviate the burden on our district courts of hearing traffic offences. It does this by establishing an alternative system whereby you can make a representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority when disputing a notice of infringement. Should your representation be rejected, an appeal may be directed to an Appeals Tribunal. An infringer who is affected by the outcome of the Tribunal’s decision may further appeal to the High Court having jurisdiction.

It is clear that this legislation will present the authorities with many challenges, the fiercest likely being the mountain of administration required to implement and regulate it, as well as the backlash that can be expected from motorists.

Although the Act can be commended for its aim of promoting compliance with traffic laws in order to promote road safety, it is yet to be seen how the authorities will deal with the challenges outlined above.

*A link to Schedule 3 of the Regulations setting out the range of traffic infringements and offences, penalties payable, discount available and demerit points allocated can be accessed below.

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