The points demerit system and driver rehabilitation programmes of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act will only be introduced from July 1, 2022 – a year later than anticipated.
This was confirmed on Thursday by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who said Aarto will be implemented in phases from July 1 this year.
Mbalula said by the time the milestone of the introduction of the points demerit system and driver rehabilitation programmes has been reached, there will be no excuse among road users that they do not understand the implications and consequences of the Aarto process.
He said Schedule 3 of the Aarto Regulations will provide a comprehensive list of demerit points allocated for every identified offence, with the threshold level of demerit points at 15 points.
“Upon exceeding the threshold mark, one’s driving licence gets suspended for a period of three months for every point that the threshold has been exceeded. The reduction is one point for every three months that a motorist remains violation-free.
“Considering the significant impact that the points demerit system will have on the public, it is critical that intensive public awareness and education campaigns are intensified to ensure that every road user in the country understands the implications of the suspension and cancellation of licences due to non-compliant behaviour with road traffic laws.
“Aarto is being introduced to save lives and if you are compliant with all road traffic laws you have nothing to worry about,” he said.
The Automobile Association (AA) said it is pleased the government has heeded calls to clarify issues relating to the implementation of Aarto but stressed that no meaningful roll-out of the system can occur until the system’s regulations are promulgated.
“Naturally the planned implementation of Aarto will not happen today [Thursday] as previously communicated,” it said.
“The Minister noted several reasons for this including the suspension of senior managers at the RTIA [Road Traffic Infringement Agency] for maladministration – including that of its Registrar and CEO Japh Chuwe – and the impact of Covid-19.
“Today’s communication, though, should have been made weeks ago as many people believed it was coming into force today,” said the AA.
“Despite this, we at least have a better roadmap going forward, but much of that relies on the finalisation of the regulations.”
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said the transport authorities confirmed what Outa has known for months: that the transport authorities are not ready to implement Aarto.
“After various promises … [that] the Aarto demerit system would start today, it has now been pushed back to July 2022, as the authorities must still set up the infrastructure to run it,” it said.
Outa said it now seems likely that its legal challenge to the constitutionality of Aarto will be heard before the amended Aarto Act comes into effect, with Outa’s challenge set down for hearing in October.
Mbalula summarised the phased approach to the Aarto national rollout plan as follows.
PHASE 1 – July 1 to September 30
Establishing seven service outlets;
Enabling the National Administration Traffic Information System (NaTIS) to collect Aarto payments at collecting agents;
Allowing elective options to be processed in infringement agencies and service outlets; and
Communication and education awareness campaigns.
PHASE 2 – October 1 to December 31
Coming online of 67 local and metropolitan municipal areas proclaimed for Aarto roll-out;
Establishment of more than 18 service outlets;
Adjudication process coming online in all provinces; and
The Appeals Tribunal coming into full operation.
PHASE 3 – January 1 to June 30, 2022
Inclusion of the 144 remaining local municipal areas proclaimed for Aarto roll-out.
PHASE 4 – July 1, 2022 onwards
Points Demerit System (PDS) coming online;
Rehabilitation Programme coming into effect; and
Establishment of 20 Aarto self-service kiosks.
Mbalula said Aarto is an objective and fair system of identifying reckless drivers, and that law breakers can be removed from the driving fold.
Servicing of documents
He said common penalties are similarly being introduced for all traffic violations throughout the country and will carry the same penal values while electronic service will begin in earnest, which means that law enforcement can be effectively supported by technology, with the servicing documents done by electronic means such as e-mail.
However, Mbalula also referred to the SA Post Office as being responsible for the serving of all notices as per the requirement of the Aarto Act.
“Moving forward, the Aarto rollout ensures that infringers do not have to burden the courts with some of these infringements,” he said.
Mbalula said habitual infringers who have had their licences cancelled will be able to attend rehabilitation programmes before being allowed back in the driving fold.
“This shows that the Aarto is not just about punishment but has intentions to ensure compliance and change of road user behaviour,” he said.
City of Cape Town not on board
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said the bigger problem looming for Aarto is that the City of Cape Town has made it clear that it is not participating and will challenge it – and more cities and towns are likely to come on board in this.
Alderman JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security at the City of Cape Town, told Moneyweb last month the city is “considering its options to challenge the implementation of Aarto legislation because it appears to conflict with the local government mandate in regard to traffic and parking”.
Duvenage said the law is very clear on the right of municipalities to the revenues of traffic fines, and to manage their own systems.
“What are they going to do when the City of Cape Town says we are not entering our fines into your system like you want us to because we don’t have to participate in your scheme?
“If the courts rule that the City of Cape Town cannot be forced to be part of the system, then Aarto is dead in the water.”