Approval of the AARTO Demerit System and how it will Impact Motorists

In South Africa, laws undergo a certain process before officially being enacted. Before a proposed piece of legislation becomes law, it goes through a  process of discussion and deliberation in parliament. The public also has an opportunity  to comment on the proposed legislation. After this, a Bill, which is a draft version of an Act, is drafted. This draft version is not law yet, and must pass through both houses of parliament (National Assembly and National Council of Provinces) before coming into effect.  

A Bill must pass through the National Assembly before it is referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). If the NCOP also passes the Bill it goes to the President for assent, and he signs it into law. The Bill then becomes an Act of Parliament and is published in the Government Gazette. Unless the Act sets out a specific date for it to take effect, it becomes binding once it is published in the Government Gazette.

The latest Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act 46 of 1998 Amendment Bill was passed in the National Assembly in early September 2017. This is also known as the AARTO Act. It is  likely this legislation  will pass through the NCOP, and go to the President for his acceptance

With the promulgation of this Amendment Bill, the main concern for most South Africans is the introduction of the Demerit System. Provision has been made for the Demerit System since AARTO’s inception in 1998 but it has not been officially implemented. However, when the Amendment Bill is signed into law the Demerit System will be implemented.

In terms of the AARTO Demerit System,  road traffic offences will have certain penalties and demerit points allocated to them. These are published from time to time in the Schedules of the AARTO Regulations.  Every driver will start with points. When a driver commits an infringement he/she incurs a penalty fine, and demerit points are allocated to the driver. The amount of demerit points per penalty depends on the severity of the offense. The maximum permissible amount of demerit points a driver may accumulate is 12. When a driver exceeds 12 demerit points his/her driver’s licence is suspended for a period of three months for every demerit every point exceeding 12. Effectively, if you have accumulated 12 demerit points every point after this equals a three month suspension

The only way a driver can reduce the demerit points is to avoid committing further infringements for a period of three months. For every three months free of traffic contraventions, one demerit point is reduced. In addition, when a motorist’s driver’s licence is suspended for a third time, the licence will be cancelled.

Proxies will not incur demerit points on behalf of a company. Juristic persons who do not qualify as operators will not receive demerit points. Instead, they will pay three times the penalty amount.

When this Bill is passed into law it will have numerous other legal implications in addition to the Demerit System. Further articles outlining these, as well as the timing of the implementation of the legislation, will be published in future.