South African drivers caught out by surprise traffic fines

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) claims that the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) has been informing motorists via SMS that they have outstanding enforcement orders for traffic fines of which they were previously unaware.

These motorists are also told they will be prevented from renewing their vehicle or driving licences.

OUTA head of legal Stefanie Fick said that there is a process that is meant to be followed by the RTIA once a driver is issued with a traffic fine.

“Firstly, the infringer will be issued with an infringement notice to inform him or her of the offence. This infringement notice must contain all relevant information related to the infringement, including that the infringer must within 32 days of the notice act on it – either by paying or contesting the fine,” said Fick.

If the driver does not act within the 32-day notice, the RTIA must then issue a ‘courtesy letter’ to ensure that the infringer knows about their infringement and the consequence of it.

No courtesy letter is a big problem

Fick noted that the absence of a courtesy letter deprives the motorist of the opportunity to comply with the infringement noticed and can mean that the enforcement order could be set aside in court.

“However, setting aside a flawed enforcement order requires time, money and resources – something an infringer should not be burdened with when the administrative flaw is a result of the RTIA’s own conduct,” said Fick.

“Considering the current state of our judicial system under various COVID-19 regulations, electing to have the matter dealt with in court is not something that everybody may have an appetite for.”

Fick also noted that if the RTIA cannot cope with its current administrative processes, it is even less likely that it will be able to deal with the upcoming AARTO Amendment Act.

“How will they be able to cope with the AARTO Amendment Act that will be rolled out nationwide by July 2021 and where a demerit system will add even more problems to the mix?”

How to check for enforcement orders

Motorists can check if they have enforcement orders against them on the AARTO website, and recommended they do this before they arrange for the renewal of their motor vehicle and drivers’ licences.

“If motorists are confronted with enforcement orders at licence renewal centres, they don’t have time to apply for the revocation of the enforcement orders – a step they have a legal right to – and are forced to pay the outstanding amount,” said Fick.

“Therefore, it is a good idea to check this beforehand.”

OUTA also has published a set of Frequently Asked Questions which can help users to navigate the traffic fine process and, if necessary, get an enforcement order revoked.

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

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South African drivers caught out by surprise traffic fines