Motoring News, road offences, road safety

Traffic fines: You’ll be deemed guilty – no recourse to a court allowed

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Vehicle owners in South Africa could soon be forced to pay traffic fines and even see their driving licence tagged or revoked WITHOUT ANY RECOURSE TO A COURT but simply on the ”evidence” of (possibly deficient or irregularly set up) speed-trapping equipment.

Or possibly corrupt traffic officers – both local and national.

You could even be banned from driving – and thus possibly lose your job, be unable to take your children to school, rent a vehicle, – without being allowed to present irrefutable evidence that you were not the driver – or indeed that the offending vehicle did not belong to you.

And remember that about 20% of vehicles in Gauteng have been shown to have false registration plates – possibly a duplicate of your legal ones. But that defence won’t work because you won’t be able to present it!

WANT TO LOSE YOUR RIGHTS?

Such are the possible consequences of the South African Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport having accepted the final amendments on the ANC’s Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill on February 12 2019.

In effect, the right to appear before a magistrate will be removed (a handy reduction of pressure on our courts at vehicle owners’ expense)  – and thereby the right to refute an offence for technical reasons, such as a wrongly placed speed-limit sign, two vehicles being in the frame, unserviced cameras / speed traps etc.

Or that it SIMPLY WASN’T YOU OR EVEN YOUR CAR / BAKKIE / BUS ./ TAXI.

The allegedly offending vehicle could be impounded should sufficient points be accumulated against it: how will that affect rental and company vehicles that are driven by many different people. Budget , Avis all rental companies, are you reading this…? Remember, camera traps often do not show the driver’s face…!

THIS IS WHAT COULD HAPPEN…

The Bill will now go before the National Assembly for concurrence before being signed into law by the president. And local and national road authorities will be slavering at the vastly increased revenue from more prosecutions – real or false.

Should the Bill go through, the below is what could (and likely will, given the cash incentive to the authorities) be written into an appalling new law.. Some of the most serious charged will include:

  • Failing to pay accumulated traffic fines could lead to a block on future driving and vehicle licences and an administrative fee (no mention of how heavy, yet, but that sounds like an addition to a fine) – as well as other penalties.
  • Documents involving ALLEGED road transgressions will no longer be sent by registered mail: instead, email, WhatsApp or an SMS message will be deemed sufficient – that is, considered by the courts to have been delivered / served. (Maybe an amendment to the proposed law could include being arrested for not having a working cellphone on you at all times?)
  • A demerit system – the much debated ”points system” as used in other countries such as the UK – will come alive. Depending on the (still only alleged!) severity of the offence, one to six points will be allocated. If an infringer (possibly not yet identified, it seems, just the vehicle)  accumulates more than 12 points that person’s driving licence will be revoked.
  • And finally, MOST IMPORTANT, your CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEE of being able to appear before a magistrate to plead your case WILL DISAPPEAR: no court appearance to deny the charge under oath, no lawyer in support, no court appearance at all. Simply the basic right to a fair trial will no longer exist.

Given the essentially communist background of South Africa’s current government, how long – if that basic right is removed – will it be before the ”no trial” principal is extended to more-serious offences? Scary…!

The allegedly original reason stated for these amendments to the law of the land were said to be a desire to reduce the road-death toll. More farcical data: less than half of road deaths are caused by a driver- most are caused by drunken driving and JAYWALKING PEDESTRIANS on freeways and other main roads.

WHAT OUTA SAYS…

Indeed, a number of civil society groups and legal experts have said the Bill is unlikely to bring any change to South African driving habits.

Rudie Heyneke, Outa’s (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) transport portfolio manager, has been reported by BusinessTech as saying: “The Aarto Bill will not have the desired effect of enhanced road safety as we have seen little change in road users behaviour during an Aarto pilot project run in Tshwane and Johannesburg over the past decade.”

Another pointer, perhaps, to the whole affair being a cloud to hide the state’s desire to replenish its criminally overspent and looted tax base?

Heyneke added in an article on BusinessTech: ”In its current form the Bill paves the way to corruption, is administratively cumbersome, and will make it more difficult for vehicle owners to refute e-tolls (for instance). The scheme errs by removing the Constitutional right of an accused to defend him/herself when wrongly accused of a traffic infringement.

ADMINISTRATIVE TRAP COMING?

“Once caught in the civil administrative system the (alleged – Ed) infringer does not have the same Constitutional right as would be afforded during a criminal process – the right to legal representation and a fair trial.”

Heyneke agreed with The Corner’s assessment that local government and the state would benefit hugely from the financial benefits of outstanding traffic offences (read fines) against a person or vehicle owner’s name.

Outa also agreed, in effect, with The Corner’s belief that the intent should be fewer road deaths and injuries and not another system  to generate money for the already plundered fiscus.

READ MORE information on BusinessTech

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