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How Cape Town plans to avoid South Africa’s strict new driving laws

The new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act is scheduled to take effect nationwide from the 1st of July 2024, but the City of Cape Town has a plan to largely avoid implementing the legislation within its area of jurisdiction, according to JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security.

If successful, the city will only make use of Aarto for speed enforcement, while other violations will be dealt with by the relevant local municipality.

New vs existing driving laws

Cape Town will leverage recent legislative amendments to achieve its goal of not implementing Aarto to its full extent, said Smith.

These amendments allow municipalities, where provincial laws or municipal by-laws cover the same contraventions, to elect whether they use either the pre-existing laws or Aarto for enforcement, as reported by Moneyweb.

These amendments are in effect in the Western Cape, including Cape Town, and should allow for the city to selectively use the new Aarto Act for certain violations, such as speeding, while other matters will be handled by existing provincial or municipal by-laws.

Smith, who said the city’s interpretation of the law had been confirmed by its legal counsel, also recommended that other municipalities around the country adopt a similar framework before the switch to Aarto in July 2024.

The same sentiment has been expressed by the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), which has been one of the most vocal critics of the new Act.

“Municipalities countrywide are going to lose money because a large portion of the revenue from Aarto fines goes to the RTIA,” said Stefanie Fick, executive director of the accountability division at Outa.

“In addition, they must incur significant costs for the infrastructure to implement Aarto. They must do what is necessary to ensure successful law enforcement.”

The Automobile Association has also slammed the act for being more geared towards “revenue collection” rather improving road safety.

Demerit system

The Aarto Act will introduce a demerit system intended to penalise drivers for infringing on traffic laws through the issuing of fines and demerit points that can ultimately lead to one’s licence being suspended or cancelled entirely.

The number of points will depend on the severity of the offence, and 15 points will see a person disqualified from driving a vehicle for a minimum of three months.

There are over 2,500 offences covered under the Act, including driving a non-roadworthy vehicle or not complying with road laws or traffic police, but Cape Town’s amended approach could result in only the speed limit restriction being applied, which incurs a R1,000 fine and 1 demerit point.

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