Licence demerits piloted

Tshwane motorists need to obey the traffic laws and be aware of how they drive or they could find themselves losing their licences with the new demerit project that has been rolled out.

The Administrative Adjudication of Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) provides for a demerit system, encompassing the demerit points scheme, whereby a driver gains points on his or her licence, for any traffic offences committed. Accumulated points can lead to a fine or licences being taken away.

AARTO has been on the cards since 1998 when the Act was approved by the government.
The pilot project is being rolled out in Tshwane and will extend to the rest of the country by the end of January 2009.

Launched by the Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe on Thursday, the project is expected to fulfil the
objective to encourage people to drive safely.

Thandi Moya, spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said: “It was more the technical side that needed to be in a state of readiness. It was completely a technical issue and now we are ready for the pilot project. The pilot will be only for Tshwane and then it will extend to Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department and then to Ekurhuleni, before complete roll out next year.”

According to Arrive Alive it has been delayed for several years pending a feasibility study and other requirements, including an assessment of technological requirements, law enforcement criteria and an analysis of human resources needed to get the system up and running.

“The demerit system is not applicable immediately. There is an amnesty period but it will be fully in place by next year for the complete roll out. Infringements will be classed as either minor or major and they can be contested,” said Moya.

According to Moya, the existing judicial system is unable to effectively manage the volume of traffic offences and fine notices that are issued on a daily basis.

“AARTO does not deal with any traffic offence for which a fine is not payable; these will still be dealt with through the court process.” AARTO is expected to provide a better and more effective policing procedure and a swifter adjudication process, but the Automobile Association (AA) is sceptical.

Head of public relations at the AA, Rob Handfield-Jones, welcomes the roll-out of AARTO. “We have been calling for the implementation of a demerit system for the past 48 years. It is a powerful tool, but we have some concerns regarding it.

“The fly in the ointment is the poor quality of law enforcement. The budgets of many municipalities receive a large contribution from traffic law enforcement and the focus has been on securing this revenue stream, usually by speed trapping,” he said.

“The AA is concerned that people are now at risk of losing their licences over repeated minor infractions resulting from revenue-driven enforcement,” said Handfield-Jones. “The benefits of AARTO will only be unlocked by enforcement that targets truly dangerous drivers,” he said.

AARTO is expected to use the revenue it derives from the collection of fines for improvements in road traffic management structures and initiatives.

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