Aarto System Faces Yet Another Delay: Demerit Points Rollout Postponed Amid Ongoing Governmental Challenges

Rest assured, demerit points on your driving license are not a concern just yet. The Aarto system, scheduled for its second-phase rollout on February 1, has once again faced a delay. The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) clarifies that the new commencement date will be announced in the future.

This setback adds another hurdle to the government’s plan of transitioning from the current criminal system to an administrative one. Under this proposed system, drivers would accumulate points for offenses, potentially resulting in license suspension or cancellation, in addition to fines.

The government has advocated for over two decades for the implementation of the demerit system, asserting that it would enhance road safety and reduce South Africa’s high road death toll. Previously, traffic fines were processed under the Criminal Procedure Act, treating traffic law violations as criminal offenses. The Aarto Act, however, treats these violations as administrative infringements.

The recent delay is attributed to ongoing finalization of issues between the agency and the Department of Transport, crucial for the proclamation of the Aarto Amendment Act—a prerequisite for the second-phase implementation, as explained by RTIA spokesperson Monde Mkalipi. Mkalipi notes that despite the agency’s expectation to complete related activities during the downtime of December 2023, external dependencies caused the delay. Unresolved issues include the appointment of a tribunal to manage appeals.

In a phased rollout, the second phase will also introduce Aarto in the 69 municipalities across the country. Phase 3 will conclude with the introduction of Aarto in the remaining 144 jurisdictions, and Phase 4 will see the implementation of the points demerit system and the rehabilitation program.

In July 2023, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the government’s plan to introduce a demerit system for traffic offenders, overturning a previous high court ruling declaring Aarto unconstitutional and invalid. The challenge had been brought by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

Outa expressed disappointment with the Constitutional Court judgment, stating that the new system would not improve road safety but would instead impose undue burdens on motorists, especially those relying on driving for their livelihoods.

The Automobile Association (AA) is another vocal critic of Aarto, contending that the legislation prioritizes revenue collection over promoting safer roads. The association asserts that Aarto has failed to address South Africa’s alarming road death rate after being piloted in Johannesburg and Tshwane for over 12 years.

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