South Africa’s new driver’s licence points demerit system will fail like E-tolls

If South Africa’s roads authorities press on with the rollout of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) without making revisions, it will fail just like E-tolls.

This is the warning from the CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), Wayne Duvenage.

“As far as we are concerned, the Road Freight Association (RFA), the SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association (Savrala), the Automobile Association (AA), Outa and many others have indicated that Aarto will fail, yet the authorities believe otherwise,” Duvenage said.

“Just as they did with the launch of E-tolls, they ignored their critics and blindly believed that if the law is written, the scheme must work.”

Duvenage’s warning comes amidst a flood of criticism from the industry and public ahead of the 1 July launch of Aarto.

The AA said that there are still too many unanswered questions surrounding the implementation of South Africa’s new driving infringement system.

This is a huge concern for South African motorists and businesses that rely on road transport given that Aarto is meant to go into effect next week.

Wayne Duvenage
Wayne Duvenage, Outa CEO

Since then, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) has provided some clarification of its plans for a five-phased rollout of Aarto.

The RTIA said that it expects each phase to take roughly three months to roll out and that the new points demerit system for road traffic infringements will also be phased in.

However, the final plan for the phased rollout of Aarto will only be announced at a later date by the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula.

Under the new demerit system, motorists will be allowed to accumulate 15 points on their licence before it is suspended. A licence may be suspended twice before it is cancelled.

If a motorist’s licence is cancelled, they have to redo their driving licence test to get a new one.

“We don’t believe the authorities are ready to start with the rollout of Aarto. People within the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA) have also said that they are not ready to launch,” Duvenage told MyBroadband.

“All indications are that AARTO will be an administrative nightmare and this bodes for a failure of the system within a very short space of time after its launch.”

However, Duvenage said that it is possible to fix Aarto to make the system workable.

“This will need a complete halt of the current processes and an in-depth workshop with a number of stakeholders,” stated Duvenage.

“Furthermore, there are many municipalities and some metros that have indicated their inability or unwillingness to participate in the Aarto scheme, with the Western Cape being a major player that will resist the scheme’s implementation.”

Driver's license
Driver’s license

MyBroadband asked the RTIA whether it was possible to halt the rollout of Aarto and hold an in-depth workshop with industry stakeholders, as Duvenage suggested.

RTIA spokesperson Monde Mkalipi said that it would be very difficult to simply stop the process now.

Mkalipi said that various workshops and consultations with all the stakeholders have already been held and that Aarto has already gone through the necessary Parliamentary process.

While all these avenues have been exhausted, Mkalipi said that no law is sacrosanct or remains static.

“If people want to call for review in future they are welcome to, but let’s allow the process starting on 1 July to take place,” he said.

Mkalipi also said that while there are some stakeholders who are dissatisfied with Aarto, there are many more who support it and are excited for it to begin rolling out nationally.

“Not everyone will openly say they support Aarto,” he said.

As an example, Mkalipi said that companies that are in the business of selling vehicles on credit are one of Aarto’s supporters.

This is because it will allow them to screen prospective buyers and see which drivers are high risk before they sell them a vehicle on contract, he said.

“The general community welcomes Aarto,” said Mkalipi.

He said that it will help deal with habitual infringers, such as those drivers in suburban areas that are known to roam around in their vehicles and participate in drag racing.

“They will be brought to book for their actions,” he said.

Monde Mkalipi, Road Traffic Infringement Agency spokesperson

According to Mkalipi, the carnage on South Africa’s roads is their greatest concern.

“The points demerits system hunts down infringers and brings them to book,” he said.

“It brings habitual infringers back to the classroom so they can relearn how to drive.”

It also standardises road traffic penalties in one common register — the National Contravention Register.

The Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape has disputed the assumption that Aarto will reduce road deaths in South Africa.

It pointed to statistics of fatal crashes in the Western Cape and Gauteng between 2010 and 2019 to substantiate its argument.

Despite a pilot version of Aarto being implemented in Gauteng, there was no change in the number of fatal crashes in the provinces over ten years, the Western Cape argued.

However, Mkalipi noted that demerit points were not part of the pilot in Gauteng.

You therefore can’t conclude that Aarto doesn’t reduce road fatalities if the main mechanism for reducing them hasn’t been implemented yet.

Mkalipi pointed to case studies from Norway, Denmark, Germany and Ireland which suggested that crashes resulting in injury were reduced through the implementation of a demerit points system.

“As demerit points are phased in there will opportunity for them to be properly tested,” he said.

Outa has said that it has a Constitutional challenge against Aarto which will be heard in court within the next few months.

It has suggested to the roads authorities that the launch of Aarto should be held back until that date.

Now read: New traffic fine rules kick in on 1 July — what you should know

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South Africa’s new driver’s licence points demerit system will fail like E-tolls