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Tuesday / 16 July 2024
HomeNewsWhen South Africa’s strict new driving laws will be rolled out nationwide

When South Africa’s strict new driving laws will be rolled out nationwide

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has announced that the Department of Transport (DoT) will complete the rollout of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, which was recently announced legal and enforceable by the Constitutional Court, by 1 July 2024.

The DoT has already established 43 service outlets across various provinces that will assist with the rollout of the controversial road laws, and it has completed the requisite processes to implement the Aarto adjudication process as well as the electronic service of infringements, the latter of which will come into effect as soon as the President proclaims the Aarto Amendment Act, said Chikunga.

“We have had the occasion to engage with the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) in order to assess our state of readiness for accelerated rollout of Aarto across all municipalities in the country,” the minister said.

“We are pleased that the progress we had made on the eve of the constitutional challenge enables us to target 1 July 2024 for the nationwide rollout of Aarto.”

The DoT has also completed drafting the Aarto regulations and consulted with the Minister of Justice and all MECs, receiving concurrence from the “vast majority of provinces.”

With this support behind it, the department plans to proclaim implementation of the Aarto Act in 69 municipalities before the end of 2023, with the remainder to be completed by its self-imposed 1 July 2024 deadline.

“The unacceptably high rate of fatalities on our roads is driven by many factors, with driver behaviour being one of the most serious,” said Chikunga.

“We have no doubt that the Aarto Act will make a difference by introducing severe penalties which include attaching movable properties of infringers, putting an end to a culture of impunity.”

Public pushback

The implementation of Aarto has been pending for 25 years, with pilots in place in the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane since 2008.

The Act aims to penalise drivers and fleet operators who break the law with demerit points, which could lead to the suspension and eventual cancelation of their licences if they accrue too many points.

Additionally, it decriminalises certain infringements that were previously classed as criminal offences while creating a new three-step process for awarding fines to motorists.

Despite inherently meaning well, the Act has been met with backlash from civil organisations and the public alike, and it has been bogged down by legal processes since the start.

Groups like the Automobile Association (AA) and Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) have lambasted the Act calling it impractical and a misguided attempt at restoring order to the country’s roads.

Outa previously successfully argued that the legislation “unlawfully intrudes upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments envisaged in the Constitution, preventing local and provincial governments from regulating their own affairs.”

It won its first case against the RTIA with the Pretoria High Court in January 2022 ruling the Act unconstitutional and invalida decision that was overturned by the Constitutional Court this July after it was challenged by the RTIA, Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), and ex-Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.

“We are disappointed with the Concourt’s decision but abide by the apex court’s ruling,” said Adv. Stefanie Fick, Outa executive director.

“OUTA believes that measures to improve road safety and reduce fatalities are urgently needed. However, we don’t believe that the AARTO Acts will achieve this, it’s just not practically possible. South Africa needs effective processes enabled by fair adjudication that comply with the Constitution.”

Similarly, the AA said that despite Aarto being declared legal, it will not save lives but rather line the pockets of those enforcing it.

“While we naturally respect the Constitutional Court’s decision, we remain concerned that Aarto will not deliver on its intended outcomes of improving road safety and reducing road carnage on our roads,” said the AA.

“We stand by our previous views that the Aarto legislation is geared towards revenue collection and not on promoting safer roads.”

The association said there is no proof that the Aarto pilots launched in 2008 has saved any lives and that these projects have instead served to visually represent “shortcomings of the act” that can’t be rectified through additional legislation.

“Introducing legislation will not solve the country’s road safety crisis. This merely creates an impression of action while nothing will change on the ground, where it is needed,” said the AA.

“As part of our contention, we point to the fact that there is no evidence that the Aarto pilot project saved a single life.”

Accident Expert Craig Proctor-Parker was marginally more upbeat about Aarto, stating that the idea of a driver demerit system in and of itself isn’t bad, as it has been successfully implemented in countries like Australia and the UK, but rather that he believes it will not work in our country because South Africans are simply very bad drivers.

Proctor-Parker echoed the Pretoria court’s sentiment that much of road safety is the responsibility of sound driver judgement – something which the average South African motorist lacks due to poor driver training.

“That’s the greater problem that we have. We need to have that sense of driver training from your learner’s licence through to your driver’s that is far more detailed and far more astute than it currently is,” he said.

“Aarto is certainly, to be polite, going to be very difficult to bring into place and to operate properly and to have the effect that they are saying it’s going to have.”

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