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Government given green light for driving demerit system

  • The Constitutional Court has ruled the driving demerit system under the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act is lawful.
  • The decision has been handed down after OUTA filed an application citing the Act as invalid.
  • Government is planning to implement the Act and demerit system as quickly as possible.

A divisive piece of legislation is set to come into play that will be of interest to South African motorists, as the Constitutional Court has ruled that the driving demerit system contained within the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act is lawful, per SA News.

The decision comes after as the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) launched an objection challenging the Act on a legal level. That challenge has since failed, with Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga welcoming the judgement that was handed down from the Constitutional Court.

“This judgement provides clarity on Schedule 4 matters of concurrent function between the national and provincial sphere as well as Schedule 5 which is exclusive provincial competence. Our assertion that AARTO is part of Road Regulation and thus concurrent competence has been confirmed by the highest court in the land,” Chikunga declared in a statement.

As such, it now makes it possible for drivers and operators of motor vehicles who are guilty of traffic or road infringements to be penalised through a system of demerit points, which may result in the suspension or cancellation of driving licences.

OUTA has since provided a statement on the ruling, noting that legislation to enforce road safety are urgently needed in South Africa, but the driving demerit system and AARTO Act are not effective tools to do so.

“The AARTO Amendment Act with higher penalties, tedious and expensive procedures to be followed by the public and the total lack of prescription on visible policing will have little or no effect on improving road safety in South Africa,” asserted Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA executive director.

Government is now in the process of bringing the demerit system to bear, although it is unclear at the time of writing as to when it will precisely take effect.

“We are also ready to finalise our recommendations to the President for the appointment of the Tribunal and the proclamation of the AARTO Act implementation as well as the AARTO Amendment Act,” the Transport minister explained.

As for the demerit system itself, once put in place, all drivers in SA will start off with zero demerits and be penalised depending on the severity of the traffic law infraction. The threshold before a suspension comes into effect is 12 points, but this may be increased to 15 points under new AARTO legislation.

Drivers license suspensions for breaching the threshold start at three months, but can range between three to nine months depending on past driver behaviour.

A full breakdown of how the demerit system will work can be found here. How effectively they will be implemented under AARTO, however, remains to be seen.

[Image – Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

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