Following years of planning, and pilot projects, the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) was expected to be implemented from 1 April this year. However, the implementation of this system has again been delayed, a delay that is doing more harm than good, the Automobile Association (AA) said.
Originally the system was to be implemented five years ago in 2011, but this was delayed indefinitely. A new implementation date of April 2012 was suggested but again this was delayed. In 2015 the Deputy Transport Minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga, announced that AARTO would be implemented in April 2016, but this date has also slipped quietly past.
“Since 1998 a lot of time, effort, and money has gone into developing and implementing AARTO. Despite this, we still don’t have a workable system, which is lamentable,” the AA noted.
A key objective for the implementation of AARTO was to effect behavioural change among drivers in order to curb the growing number of deaths on our roads. According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), approximately 13 000 people died on the country’s roads last year alone. We believe that action needs to be taken sooner, rather than later, to deal with this crisis.
The AA has supported many of the proposals relating to AARTO since they were first mooted in 1998, through the establishment of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), which was created specifically to roll out and administer AARTO.
Apart from creating the RTIA, the legislation on AARTO also:
- Established the concept of an ‘infringement’ as a traffic violation which can be dealt with administratively (such as speeding or talking on your cellphone while driving), as opposed to an ‘offence’ which remains a criminal offence (such as drunk driving, which is indistinguishable from any other criminal offence, and which requires a court appearance), and,
- Provided for the implementation of a points demerit system which punishes repeated violations by suspending or cancelling a motorists driving licence.
According to the RTIA the system will mean drivers accumulate points for infringements they commit, The Agency notes: “Every person starts with 0 points, and the maximum permissible number of points is 12. …a person is allowed to drive until he/she has 12 points. Every point exceeding 12 points results in a three-month suspension of the licence. One point is reduced every three months if no further contraventions occur. A licence is cancelled when it has been suspended for the third time.”
AARTO has been piloted in Tshwane since 2008 and Johannesburg since 2009, but the points demerit system has not implemented. This will not happen until AARTO is implemented nationally.
However, the delays are cause for great concern, and will ultimately lead to the perpetuation of road offences of which AARTO is designed to address. Among the reasons for these delays are issues relating to the delivery of infringement notices. While this still needs to be resolved, the Act does allow for infringement notices to be delivered via registered mail and as such can be implemented at any time.
In its 2014/2015 Annual Report, the RTIA noted that certain aspects of the AARTO Act are undergoing a parliamentary process but that the Department of Transport envisaged these to be complete by the end of the fourth quarter of the 2015/2016 financial year. This has not happened.
We believe the time has come for hard decisions on the future of AARTO to be made. Our concern is that almost two decades after it was first proposed, no significant steps forward have been taken towards final implementation of the demerit system. We therefore call on the Department of Transport to give South Africans a firm and concrete date for the implementation of AARTO, and to stick to it. Their credibility, and that of the system as a whole, is now at stake.
“As much as we want to see the RTIA, and the AARTO system, succeed and go ahead, this state of inactivity on AARTO’s implementation is serving no purpose. We therefore urge the Department of Transport to take significant steps to ensure the system is implemented, or concede to the public that it probably will never materialise,” the AA noted.
Road safety remains one of the key challenges our government faces, and any dithering on the implementation of a critical resource such as AARTO cannot be entertained.