Demerit System Moves Closer to Reality

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Back in 2017, we reported that the proposed Demerit System for road users was a step closer to implementation. Now, in 2019, we're one step closer to the bill being signed into law. Here's what you need to know.

Update: As of February 2019, the South African Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Transport has accepted the final changes on the Bill. The next step in the process is the bill then going to the National Assembly for concurrence and then be ready to signed into law.

The proposed points system is very similar to what is already used in several European countries. Essentially, points are added onto motorists’ licences if they commit a road offence. Once the motorist has reached a certain number of points, the licence can be suspended and if the motorist continues to commit offences, the licence can be taken away.

The law for the points system was signed in September 1998 as part of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act 46 of 1998. The main reason for the delay of the rollout of the system is mainly due to it being adapted for South African road users.

The amendments include the removal of the courts from the AARTO process which is to be replaced by a dedicated Road Traffic Infringement Authority, which is to be largely funded by traffic fine revenue. Transgressors will be required to make written representations to the authority while the bill also makes provision for an Appeals Tribunal, allowing for motorists to challenge infringements within 30 days. If these options are not exercised within the required time frame, the issuing of a drivers license or vehicle license disc will be blocked and demerit points imposed. 

What this means is that if you do not pay your traffic fines, you may be blocked from renewing your driving and vehicle licences. Previously, documents had to be sent via registered mail, but this bill now means that documents can be served by email with reminders over WhatsApp and SMS. Frustratingly, the option for motorists to challenge the prosecution in court has been removed. 

How Will The Points Work?

- Each driver starts off with zero points.

- Points are allocated according to infringements or offences committed (there are different values for different infringements and offences)

- Points are incurred (allocated) on the date a penalty (fine) is paid or when the person is convicted of the offence (as the case may be)

- Operators receive points separately from their drivers (ie a transport company receives points allocated to the operator's permit)

- When you reach 13 points and more, the licence (and/or operator card) is suspended with effect from 32 days after the maximum points (12) have been reached

- The suspension period is calculated in months equal to the number of points exceeding 12, multiplied by three (or such number as may be prescribed by the Minister of Transport)

- The number of points (demerits) added will depend on the severity of the offence

- The driver/operator may apply for the return of the license on expiry of the suspension (disqualification) period

- A driver/operator who is disqualified for the third time will permanently lose the license/operator card and will have to reapply for testing and issue (as if a first time license/operator applicant) after expiry of the disqualification period.

- Demerit points will be reduced (for all persons/operators) at a flat rate of one point per every three months (or as otherwise prescribed), except in the case where evidence points to the fact that the process has been deliberately delayed to obtain a reduction in points.

How Many Points Can You Earn

Infringements and demerit points

Infringement Fine amount Demerit points

Licences and miscellaneous

Driving an unregistered vehicle R500 1
Driving an unlicensed vehicle R500 1
Driving a vehicle with licence plate not visible R500 1
Driving without a driving licence R1,250 4
Driving without a seat belt R250 0
Driving under influence of intoxicating substance Determined by court 6
Driving while holding and using a cellphone R500 1

Failing to stop

Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles) R500 1
Skipping a stop sign (buses, trucks) R750 2
Skipping a red light (light vehicles) R500 1
Skipping a red light (buses, trucks) R750 2
Failing to yield to a pedestrian R500 1

Overtaking and overloading

Overtaking across a barrier line (light vehicles) R500 1
Overtaking across a barrier line (buses, trucks) R750 2
Overloading a vehicle with max 56,000kg combination mass by 12-13.99% R1,500 5

Speeding

81-85km/h in a 60km/h zone R750 2
100km/h+ in a 60km/h zone Determined by court 6
106-110km/h in an 80km/h zone R1,000 3
120km/h+ in an 80km/h zone Determined by court 6
121-125km/h in a 100km/h zone R750 2
131-135km/h in a 100km/h zone R1,250 4
140km/h+ in a 100km/h zone Determined by court 6
131-135km/h in a 120km/h zone R250 0
141-145km/h in a 120km/h zone R750 2
151-155km/h in a 120km/h zone 1,250 4
160km/h+ in a 120km/h zone Determined by court 6

Will It Work?

The points system is not a bad one and it'll quickly send a message to those flouting the law. The key issue, as ever, is enforcement and getting the visible policing out on the roads to catch the offenders. Do you think the points system will have any effect on stemming the carnage on South Africa's roads? We'll keep you posted on this topic and if we hear any updates with regard to the rollout of the points system.

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