Passing of the AARTO Amendment Bill is more bad news for motorists

JOHANNESBURG – The passing of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (“AARTO”) Amendment Bill, 2015 (as amended by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Transport in August 2017) in the National Assembly this afternoon brings with it some pretty ominous provisions with serious implications for holders of driving licenses and/or owners of motor vehicles.

The Bill will now head to the National Council of Provinces for adoption, whereafter it will be signed into law by the President, amending the Act to further weight it in favour of driving traffic fine revenues for authorities, whilst leaving motorists virtually powerless to defend themselves. The amendments also pave the way for the national rollout of the AARTO Act and the implementation of the points-demerit system.

Amongst the amendments are the complete removal of the courts from the AARTO process, replacing them with a compulsion to make written representations to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (formerly Agency) which is a State Owned Enterprise, funded almost entirely by traffic fine revenues (95.47% of its 2015/16 annual revenue) and to appeal adverse decisions by the RTIA’s representations officers to a newly created Tribunal.

Applications for appeal/review made to that Tribunal must be made within 30 days of the adverse decision and must be accompanied by the payment of a fee yet to be prescribed by the Minister of Transport.

Failure to exercise any of one’s so-called “elective options” within the prescribed timeframe will speedily lead to the issue of an enforcement order which blocks the issuing of a driving licence [card], a professional driving permit, any permit or licence issued in terms of any road traffic legislation or transport legislation and/or the issue of a vehicle licence disc, along with the imposition of demerit-points on the alleged infringer’s driving licence or operator card.

In addition, demerit-points will now be applied against the driving licenses of proxies for juristic entities (companies, etc.) which are registered owners of motor vehicles – in relation to infringements committed by other people who drive those vehicles. The actual drivers who commit such infringements will be able to evade the points-demerit system, by simply driving vehicles registered to juristic entities.

“I am not even remotely convinced that this ‘end justifies the means’ approach to road traffic violations is the way to go,” said Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of JPSA. “Clearly delinquent drivers must be taken to task for their transgressions and suspending the driving licenses of habitual offenders may assist in that regard. However, the more the AARTO Act is tampered with, the more it focusses the disposal of what are seen to be ‘bothersome provisions’ of law which stand in the way of the revenue generation process and the less it focusses on road safety. This travesty simply cannot go unchallenged,” he concluded.