December 1, 2019

The AARTO amendments. It is important to understand what the consequences are once they come into effect.

“AARTO” recently became a general topic of discussion due to new amendments added to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (“AARTO Act”). These amendments have been a work in progress for almost 10 years and are aimed at making South African roads safer.  The amendments were recently signed into law, however, it has not yet come into effect. It is still important to understand what the consequences are once it does come into effect.

The focus of the amendments are the introduction of a demerit system for South African drivers, where the Road Traffic Infringement Authority is given the function to administer the demerit system. 

Under the demerit system, demerit points (ranging from one to six) will be allocated for different infringements and offences. The number of demerit points allocated will depend on the type and severity of the infringement or offence. For example, driving with a cellphone in one or both hands will lead to one demerit point. Another example is that driving a vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol will lead to six demerit points.  

Once the demerit system is in operation, all drivers will start with zero points. When a driver has accumulated more than 12 demerit points, his/her licence will be suspended. The period of suspension will depend on the number of points that exceeds 12. For example, if a driver has 13 points, the suspension period will be three months. If the driver has 14 points, the suspension period will be six months. This means that the general suspension period is three months and that it is multiplied with each point that exceeds 12. The demerit points can be reduced at a rate of one point every three months.

If a driver drives a vehicle during the suspension period, his/her licence will be suspended for another year for every time s/he drove the vehicle. Together with the extended suspension, it is also a criminal offence to drive a vehicle during the suspension. 

A driver can apply for the return of his/her licence once the suspension period ends. A driver whose licence is suspended for the third time, will lose his/her licence and will have to reapply for a learner's licence and redo the driver's test. 

Once the amendments come into effect, the following will also have to be taken into account:

> A driver will be blocked from renewing his/her licence disc if his/her driver's licence is suspended.  

> Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the post office, the new amendments will allow authorities to now also deliver documents electronically, such as to send reminders through e-mails and SMS.

> An Appeals Tribunal will be established and will preside over all issues under the AARTO Act. This means that issues will only be taken to court if a driver is not satisfied with the decision of the Appeals Tribunal. The new amendments allow for an appeal and review procedure to the Magistrates' Court.

In light of the above, the amendments aim to reduce the number of road offences committed by drivers, as well as the number of offenders on South African roads. Once the amendments come into effect, drivers will also get demerit points that might lead to the suspension/cancellation of their driver's licences.

Did you know…The number of demerit points allocated will depend on the type and severity of the infringement or offence.