South Africa’s new traffic laws will be “too frightening to imagine”

If South Africa’s new traffic laws are implemented next year, the injustices they will cause will be too frightening to imagine.

This is the view of Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) head Howard Dembovsky, who publicly endorsed a submission made by the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) criticising the latest draft Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) regulations.

He said the new regulations reveal the blatant commercialisation of traffic fines taking place in South Africa.

“From the enormous increases in the fines and the administrative fees payable to numerous new obstacles which are to be put in the way of a motorist who wishes to prove his or her innocence; these draft regulations make it clear that money and not justice or road safety is the primary focus of the AARTO Act,” Dembovsky said.

The AARTO Act already regards traffic fines as little more than invoices, he said, except where alleged infringers elect to be tried in court under its current provisions.

“Should the AARTO Amendment Act be implemented nationally on 1 July 2021, where a popup Tribunal further hinders access to the lower courts, the injustices it will create are too frightening to imagine,” Dembovsky said.

“Once regulations have been enacted, reversing them is a very tedious and costly process.”

People’s rights are on the line

The AA has stated that it stands by its assertion that the AARTO Act makes a mockery of the claim that the law is intended to improve road safety in South Africa.

Of particular concern to the AA is an issue first raised in October last year – the R100 Infringement Penalty Levy (IPL) charged in addition to the fine amount on every infringement notice issued.

“This is a disproportionate, sweeping and unjust draft regulation and is similar to having someone pay a fee to submit their tax returns; it’s an ultimately unfair surcharge for a function that is already paid for through traffic fine revenue,” the AA said.

It added that people’s rights are on the line with the draft regulations, and unless the public raises its concerns, the regulations will become law and these rights will be infringed.

“The quiet implementation of a multi-billion Rand stealth tax is an outrageous addition to the regulations,” the AA said.

“We urge the Department of Transport to remove it – it is neither just nor necessary and is, in our view, an example of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, which administers AARTO, encroaching on the National Treasury’s fiscal territory.”

The AA said that while there are provisions in the draft regulations which are sound, such as those relating to driving in emergency lanes, and to the misuse of licences, there is much which requires revision and reworking.

“In our view, the Department of Transport must feel the pressure of public opinion to put road safety ahead of revenue collection,” the AA said.

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South Africa’s new traffic laws will be “too frightening to imagine”