The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act is expected to play a role in changing the behaviour of South Africa’s road users for the better.
“More than 12 000 road users perish on our roads annually. AARTO will play a critical role in changing the behaviour of road users for the better. We all need to strive towards zero fatalities in our roads. One road death is one too many,” says Monde Mkalipi.
Mkalipi is the spokesperson of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) which has been given the mandate to continue with the implementation of the AARTO Act.
This comes after the Constitutional Court confirmed the legality and validity of the Act and the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Act 4 of 2019.
Government has welcomed the July judgement on the constitutionality challenge brought by civil action group, OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse). The OUTA brought an application calling on the highest court in the land to confirm the Pretoria High Court’s 2022 judgement which found the AARTO legislation to be unconstitutional and invalid.
According to OUTA, the legislation “unlawfully intrudes upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments envisaged in the Constitution, preventing local and provincial governments from regulating their own affairs.”
However, in its judgement, the Constitutional Court disagreed. In welcoming the court’s July judgement, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said the ruling affirms government’s long-held view that this is a necessary law to advance the state’s efforts in arresting the carnage on the country’s roads.
The Minister said the implementation of this law across the country has been pending for 25 years, with pilots in place in the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
The Amendment Act intends to establish and administer rehabilitation programmes; to provide for the apportionment of penalties; to provide for the establishment of the Appeals Tribunal and add to the functions of the RTIA among others.
Speaking to SAnews, Mkalipi added that it is government’s long held view that AARTO is a necessary road safety intervention to curb fatalities.
How it will work
The ruling paves the way to penalise drivers and operators of motor vehicles who are guilty of traffic or road infringements through a system of demerit points, which may result in the suspension or cancellation of driving licences.
Chikunga said government would move with speed with the implementation of the demerit system which is an important cornerstone of the AARTO Act. The system will involve demerit points being allocated according to the severity of infringements committed.
The AARTO Act provides for a system whereby a person, operator or juristic person who is not an operator, pays the penalty and incurs points when a traffic infringement is committed.
Under the demerit system, vehicles are not punished by the system, but the operator /juristic person is held responsible for the use of the vehicle.
Upon implementation of the demerit system, everyone will commence with zero points.
A 2020 government gazette details the Schedule 3 demerit points and penalties and according to the document, an offender will receive a penalty, and in addition to the penalty, the offender also receives demerit points to the specific infringement or offence.
If the demerit points exceed the maximum 15 points, a person, operator or juristic person who is not an operator will be disqualified from driving or using the vehicle for three months for every point surpassing the 15 points.
According to the gazette’s Explanatory Memorandum on Schedule 3 demerit points and penalties, points for offences and infringements range between one and six.
If demerit points are allocated to a person or vehicle and no further demerit points are accrued in three months after receiving the previous demerit point, a reduction of one point on the total number of demerit points will be recorded on the system.
A person's driving licence card and the operator card of a motor vehicle must be handed in for the disqualification period. Upon a third disqualification, the licence will be cancelled.
This then means that an individual must apply for a new learner's licence and driving licence once the disqualification period ends.
Clarity on function
The judgement provides clarity on Schedule 4 matters of concurrent function between the national and provincial sphere as well as on Schedule 5.
Schedule 4 of the Constitution lists the functional areas in which Parliament and the provincial legislatures jointly have the right to make laws. Schedule 5 of the Constitution lists the functional areas in which only the provincial legislatures may make laws.
Mkalipi clarifies that the AARTO Act will by no means displace national and provincial laws and municipal bylaws.
“But [it] will rather encourage compliance with these laws. Voluntary compliance with traffic laws is the new culture AARTO seeks to instil among our road users.”
As an entity of the Department of Transport which is mandated with assisting motorists in managing and resolving AARTO fines, the RTIA says the AARTO seeks to encourage compliance with road traffic laws.
“It is our hope that [the] reduction in traffic violations will automatically also result in reduction of road crashes, injuries and fatalities,” he said.
The agency offers road users the various legislated AARTO elective options ranging from a 50% discount, nomination of driver in charge of vehicle, submission of representations to dispute an infringement and the request to pay in instalments.
In addition, the agency is reviewing its AARTO Master Implementation Plan to determine the shape and form of the AARTO national rollout. Previously, the department had said implementation would follow a phased-in approach.
“Currently consultations are underway with members of the AARTO National Steering Committee who are representing various issuing authorities (national road traffic agencies, provinces and municipalities) to determine the most feasible way to kick-start the AARTO national rollout,” said Mkalipi.
At a recent media briefing, Chikunga said motorists can expect the nationwide full implementation of the AARTO Act in July 2024.
The agency said the testing of the implementation of the AARTO Act in Gauteng’s Tshwane and Johannesburg in 2008, has provided a firm commitment that the agency is ready to rollout AARTO throughout the country.
While the agency continues to engage with stakeholders to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of how the act and its amendment will work, it will also continue educating road users on the legislation and its implications for those who do not comply.
While there has been some sentiment that the AARTO will be hard to implement, the RTIA is of a different view.
“With the eagerness to rollout AARTO by various partners, the RTIA strongly believes the AARTO rollout will be a great success. As we speak, we have the NaTIS [National Administration Traffic Information System] that is active in all municipalities across the country. Since AARTO is a highly automated system, the RTIA should be able to rollout AARTO with existing network on the NaTIS.
“We have prepared so well for the implementation of AARTO which includes the Points Demerit System and the Rehabilitation programme. All these elements of AARTO are being packaged for automation and loading into the NaTIS,” Mkalipi explained.
The rehabilitation programme will see habitual infringers who have their licenses cancelled, attending rehabilitation programmes to be allowed back into the driving fold. –SAnews.gov.za