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New look Aarto Act to take effect countrywide in April

E-toll enforcement and demerit points loom – RTIA.
Japh Chuwe, Registrar of RTIA

Road traffic enforcement may change radically in April next year when the long-awaited Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) takes effect countrywide.

It will also be used for the enforcement of Gauteng’s controversial e-tolls, but that is only a small part of it. 

The most important features include the demerit points system that will see the drivers licences of habitual transgressors suspended or revoked and it being a civil, rather than a criminal process aimed at relieving the burden on the courts.

Aarto has seen many false starts since its promulgation in 1998.

At first it was only implemented on a pilot basis in Johannesburg and Tshwane and previous efforts to roll it out countrywide were strongly opposed by among others the City of Cape Town.

The demerit points system has not been tested and the pilot projects saw massive administrative problems with at least one court challenge ruled against the authorities and another pending.

Registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) Japh Chuwe (pictured) however says things have changed for the better. It seems some of the main stakeholders are also carefully optimistic.

RTIA is the Department of Transport agency tasked with Aarto implementation. It took several years for it to be properly established and in the early years it was hopelessly underfunded.

Chuwe is confident that RTIA now has the necessary capacity to implement Aarto successfully.

He says the legislative amendments to be effected before countrywide implementation are at an advanced stage and will make the implementation easier and less costly.

Electronic service of documents

Currently all Aarto documents have to be served either in person or by registered mail. Apart from being very expensive, this has been a huge issue in terms of reliability. Aarto functions within strict timelines. An infringement notice, for example, has to be responded to within 32 days to qualify for a 50% discount. If not, a courtesy letter follows with a R60 administrative fee and a further limited timeline for payment. If that is not complied with, an enforcement order follows and the eNatis account of the vehicle owner is blocked, affecting all the vehicles they own and preventing them from renewing licences, and registering or deregistering vehicles. This is a huge issue for fleet owners.

In Tshwane and Johannesburg the service by the Post Office has been a huge issue, according to René Venter, manager of Avax SA 466 and Cornelia van Niekerk, owner of Fines4U. Both businesses administer traffic fines on behalf of corporate and private clients. Sometimes the notice is issued after the discount period has lapsed and often the notice is never delivered, due to faulty addresses in the eNatis database they say.

An amendment will be made to the Act to provide for electronic service of documents by the Post Office and other service providers, says Chuwe. This will be a more formal process than just sending an e-mail into cyber space, as the agency will have to get proof that delivery has indeed taken place, he says. People who don’t have access to e-mail will still get their notices through traditional methods.

The contact details of vehicle owners will be updated through a FICA-like process that the Department of Transport will embark on in October, Chuwe says.

Licence blocking

Currently the non-payment of an infringement may result in the refusal to issue licence discs, but also in the blocking of all eNatis transactions relating to the owner of that vehicle.

In practice this has had a huge impact on especially fleet owners in Johannesburg and Tshwane, according to Venter and Van Niekerk. Fleet owners usually stagger licence renewals and even vehicle replacements. The non-payment of one infringement on one vehicle – that the owner may not even have been aware of due to defective service of documents – can result in licence renewals, registrations and de-registrations being withheld for the whole fleet. Car dealers are especially vulnerable in this regard.

Chuwe says the amendment will provide for only the relevant vehicle’s eNatis transactions being blocked. It will be vehicle-based, not owner-based.

Warrants of execution

The current Act provides for warrants of execution for outstanding fines. In short, if you don’t pay outstanding traffic fines, the sheriff will come to your house, take for example your TV or couch and sell it to settle the debt.

This module, that has never been tested, will be scrapped in total. The process will end with the enforcement order and eNatis block, says Chuwe.

Rehabilitation

The amendments will further provide for rehabilitation programmes. Chuwe says the ultimate aim of Aarto is to change the behaviour of motorists to improve road safety. He says the system will automatically flag habitual offenders guilty of risky behaviour like skipping a red light. Such drivers will have to undergo rehabilitation programs in order to reduce their demerit points or restore their drivers licences once they have been suspended. The agency hopes this will result in improved driver behaviour.

Demerit points

Chuwe says the non-payment of e-tolls will not attract demerit points.

Drivers who approach a prescribed threshold of demerit points for other offences will be warned of the pending suspension of their drivers licences. Once they exceed the threshold, their drivers licences will be suspended for three months for every point above the threshold. At a certain point the licence will be cancelled and they will have to wait for a prescribed period before being allowed to apply for a learners’ licence and thereafter a new drivers licence, Chuwe says.

Fleet owners have been very concerned about real-time access to employees’ demerit point status. Chuwe says interested parties will have real-time access, although they need the permission of the driver to access the information.

Operators like vehicle rental companies will have limited access to driver information, for example a mere ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to indicate whether a specific client should be allowed behind the wheel.

Ready for roll-out?

Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) director Gerrie Gerneke earlier told Moneyweb problems with Aarto, including the reconciliation of funds to be transferred between issuing authorities and RTIA, have been resolved. He believes the system is ready for the countrywide roll-out.

City of Cape Town member of the mayoral committee JP Smith said the city will attend a meeting with the Western Cape provincial government within the next week or two to decide whether it will support the roll-out. The decision will be informed by a checklist of measures that have to be in place for a successful roll-out. He says inclusion of the demerit points system and reduced reliance on the Post Office for the service of documents are in his view deal breakers.

President of the South African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (Savrala), Marc Corcoran, says Savrala welcomes all measures aimed at improving road safety.

It however remains concerned about the current administrative burden on members to redirect infringement notices to foreign drivers. “We believe some of the shortcomings in Aarto have been addressed and would like an updated report on those changes,” he said.

Venter and Van Niekerk are less optimistic. Venter says the devil is in the detail with Aarto. She says RTIA does not stick to timelines with regard to especially the redirection of infringement notices. Redirection happens when the owner of a vehicle informs RTIA that someone else was driving the vehicle at the time of the infringement and should therefore be held liable. The agency then has to cancel the initial notice and re-issue it to the driver. Venter believes undue delays by the agency should be penalised.

Van Niekerk, who has won a previous court application against the JMPD regarding its failure to service Aarto notices by registered mail, has challenged RTIA now with regards to its alleged failure to process notices and redirections timeously and properly. The case will be heard in the North Gauteng High Court on June 8.

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I see a few problems that need to be solved here, as this act will only result in unintended consequences.

In principal the demerit system is good, but in practice it cannot work if we don’t first have a perfect, bribe-free enforcement. This means, taxi drivers cannot strike because of fines. People may not get away with false or doctored number plates. And so on. Solve these issues first.

Next, if the traffic department really is trying to save lives, and they quote that almost 50% of road deaths are pedestrians, I would like to see that 50% of fines are issued to pedestrians. But, this won’t happen, as the pedestrians don’t have the money to pay the fines.

So, they want to introduce a new system, but they’re not even able to sort out what’s a mess? Good luck.

DE-Merit system is a complete utter waste of time. Rehabilitation is to ensure all road users are competent at driving. Driving licence should be renewed every 3 years. It most be noted that Joe Republic is going to become more criminal like due to incompetent government officials. Sad state our country has become. Another note is where do all these new bodies – SAVRALA/RITA come from and what have they been doing for the past 20 years?

It is both laughable and nonsensical that a country that can not keep traffic lights working wants to prosecute the citizens for transgressions… Only in Banana South Africa you can do that.

Until they sort out the problem of cloned number plates, this system will simply not work. I live in the Western Cape and have received five notices in terms of which I have been accused of exceeding speed limits in Gauteng. Some have photographs of the vehicle which is the same make but different model and colour. I have written to the various Traffic departments each time and do not even receive the courtesy of a response.
If this system sought to restrict my ability to pay for a licence renewal, the matter would end up in court – again.
This will be a classic case of complexity breaking down into chaos.

I would like to see fines being issued based on dashcam footage supplied by other road users. I’ve captured some gems on video.

So you are spying on fellow-motorists?

Aarto aside, if only the insurance industry can realise the opportunity here. If they could get access to a driver’s demerit points they could tie it to a penalty and reward system. In doing so they will also have a better indication of a driver’s risk profile.

So you can get a demerit for a variety of different infringements. When the system is introduced it will create yet another cottage industry for the corrupt JMPD and similar traffic officials. Just imagine a pig pulls you over and says you were speeding and that constitutes 2 demerit points, but, he/she tells you, you can avoid demerit points if you pay this simple monetary award to the “nice” JMPD official. This whole AARTO and JMPD is focused on only one thing, and that is catching people for exceeding a speed limit, there is absolutely no focus on skipping robots (camera population is pathetic in Jhburg), skipping stop/yield signs and jay walking. Taxi driver drive recklessly, yet the whole system is geared to focus on speed – the wisdom of these people is pathetically poor, and seems to support the saying that there is no cure for stupidity it is terminal

“The demerit points system has not been tested…” That says it all. Nor, I suggest, is the data correct. eNatis data is a joke. This will not work, but the ANC will keep trying to do something they aren’t capable of doing, but as many commentators have said under a raft of threads, it’s not so much that they don’t know what they are doing, it’s the fact that they don’t know that they don’t know. Hence we end up with massive delays and costs and all we get are unintended consequences.

What I’ve noticed when driving in South Africa is that the majority of drivers are hesitant, overly cautious, clearly completely unsure of their ability to operate their vehicle. The way they drive is dangerous, but nothing that is illegal. Add in the fact that in South Africa it is quite normal to have roads full of unsafe and unroadworthy vehicles, as well as pedestrians who can only be described as deaf, blind and stupid I can’t really see the proposed measures having any impact on road deaths.

The drivers who appear hesitant and over-cautious are those that are looking after life and limb as well as their vehicles. We have another sort of driver on SA roads – these are the vehicles driven by morons, of which minibus taxis are a great example. They are not in the least hesitant or cautious. They drive like maniacs, follow no road rules and are aggressive. They stop where they like, rarely use indicators to turn (but they leave both indicators on to let one guess which way they are going – left, right, straight on or reverse). We also have the cowboys in big SUV’s (owing to being physically challenged in the groin area) who also use no indicators – it seems like BMW have given up installing indicators on their cars. You are quite right – the proposed measures will have no impact on road deaths – oh, wait a minute, yes they will have an impact – the number of deaths will increase in direct proportion to the number of new rules that they have to learn to ignore.

No, those frightened drivers are not improving safety. Their driving behaviour is highly dangerous. And they too don’t use indicators, as well as stopping at random. Their behaviour indicates a distinct lack of skill and knowledge. In Europe it would be assumed they must be learner drivers because of their clear inability to handle their vehicle.

Great ideas, but without honest law enforcement and with administrative corruption so rife, only a few less dishonest drivers will be impacted. Sort out corruption, starting with no1 and all will eventually fall into place.

Assuming the driver and the owner of a car are the same person is mostly the case, but the issue of holding a third party responsible when the driver is not the owner is an issue the authorities have to take into account for legislation to be effective. When the drivers licence must be displayed and can be seen by electronic devices and recorders the problem might find a solution.

Article 233 of the South African Constitution says that the courts must prefer any interpretation that is consistent with International Law and Article 12 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal which met at Nuremberg says the following “The Tribunal shall have the right to take proceedings against a person charged with crimes set out in Article 6 of this Charter in his absence, if he has not been found or if the Tribunal, for any reason, finds it necessary, in the interests of justice, to conduct the hearing in his absence.”
The car owner is a third party to the obligation to pay e-tolls and the only way round the problem is the public display of a detectable drivers licence.

If a drivers licence must be displayed on a car windshield it would have to comply with UN regulations so that travellers and foreigners would not be discriminated against. Then Austrians, Zulus, Algerians, folks from the Transkei, Zambians and others would have a right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. And have the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to his own country. (Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) This arrangement also complies with Article 7 of the Resolution on the Definition of Aggression 1974 “Nothing in this Definition, and in particular Article 3, could in any way prejudice the right to self determination, freedom and independence,… particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination…

it would be more beneficial and prudent if they made comprehensive vehicle insurance compulsory, as well as yearly roadworthy tests for cars older than 5 years old- but this of course would not be politically expedient

End of comments.

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