JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – The Automobile Association in South Africa believes that, in its current form, the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill is cause for concern.
The AA believes the Bill is slanted more towards revenue collection – money for the government – than on improving road safety through the threat of serious punishment.
The National Assembly, in early March 2019, passed the Bill and sent it to president Cyril Ramaphosa to be signed into law. Among the suggestions is a demerit points similar to that which has been in force for many years in Britain and other countries.
The AA said: ”We’re in favour of a demerit system for drivers – fact we have back it since its first suggestion back in the 1960s.”
Essentially, the system is cumulative. As more offences are recorded, so the penalty points tally grows against a drivinglicence until being banned from the road is inevitable. Not a bad idea – and in fact terrifies drivers in the UK. But it isn’t working in SA!
However, the AA points out: ”It punishes frequent road-traffic offenders but many of the proposed amendments in the Bill are worrisome and raise practicality questions.”
Road safety, the AA says, should be the main target but the proposed SA system is, it believes, skewed towards hauling in money. As an example: not wearing a crash protection restraint (seat belt) carries the same penalty as driving an unregistered vehicle.
”In our view not wearing a belt should carry a much stiffer monetary punishment and accompanying high-value points demerit. Let’s start here if making our roads safer is the objective.”
Other problems could arise through the doubtful legality of issuing of fines (will there be a non-contestable fine or a notice of prosecution? – Editor) by email.
Worse, if you do get to contest a road-offence accusation, the appeal will go through the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, the very body which will be hauling in the cash! This the AA asserts – and to to which The Corner concurs – violates the alleged infringer’s rights to a court hearing.
At this point, The Corner points out that about one in every five vehicles in Gauteng is believed to have a false registration plate.
LEGAL OWNER WILL BE FINED
Worse, as the AA says: “Fleet owners or managers will have to bear the ‘immense burden the Amendment Bill will place on them: demerits will go directly against them personally. This is wholly unfair and, again, does not address what should be a predominant feature of this system: saving lives.”
Basically the person with whom the vehicle is registered will be liable for the penalty.
Also, according to the AA, the piloted roll-out of Aarto in Tshwane and Johannesburg was not implemented properly: only fines but no demerit points were issued. ”This means amendments to the Aarto Bill are being made without proper testing of the system.”
Earlier Aarto systems did not reduce the horrendous road-death and injury toll on SA roads: “The existing system,” the AA points out, ”has been largely unsuccessful – especially when measured against fatal crashes in Gauteng.
”In 2014 there were 2136 fatalities, in 2015 that rose to 2171, then 2385 in 2016 and 2398 in 2017. So, instead of declining, the death toll has risen – all while the limited Aarto implementation was in force.”
BIG BROTHER IGNORES THE CITIZENS
The AA believes little notice was taken by the authorities of the many negative public submissions about Aarto – submissions requested when the system was suggested.
”Those included those from the AA.”
The association noted that road safety must be the priority of any infringement system: ”Patently the current Amendment Bill does not do that. Our overall impression is that any system which tinkers with the punishment of offenders instead of deterring them is not going to work.
”A demerit system will be useless unless people fear being caught in the first place. There must be more investment and focus on providing appropriately resourced and deployed traffic-law enforcement.”