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South African Motorists to Experience Demerit Points Soon



demerit points

South African motorists are set to experience a major shift in their lives as demerit points for road traffic infringements become a significant aspect of their driving experience. In a landmark ruling, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) declared the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act and the Aarto Amendment Act to be constitutional and valid, overturning a previous ruling that deemed them unconstitutional. Chief Justice Raymond Zondo delivered the unanimous judgment, stating that the accumulation of demerit points by motorists will suspend or cancel their driving licenses, professional driving permits, or operator cards.

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The ConCourt rejected Outa’s argument that the legislation encroached upon local and provincial governments’ exclusive executive and legislative powers, preventing them from regulating their own affairs. Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga welcomed the judgment, asserting that it would eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the legal challenge. She highlighted that the implementation of the Aarto law had been pending for 25 years, with pilot projects already in progress in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

With the path now clear for the implementation of Aarto, the Ministry of Transport is determined to swiftly roll out the system nationwide. Chikunga emphasised the importance of the demerit points system, which aims to shape motorists’ behaviour on the roads. The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) will mobilise its resources to execute the rollout plans across all municipalities in the country. Additionally, the Ministry is prepared to finalise its recommendations for the appointment of the Appeals Tribunal and the proclamation of the Aarto Act’s implementation, along with the Aarto Amendment Act.

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However, the advocacy group Outa expressed disappointment with the ConCourt decision, suggesting that the government may encounter challenges in implementing the Aarto Act due to bureaucratic obstacles and potential corruption. Outa believes that while measures to enhance road safety and reduce fatalities are crucial, the Aarto Acts may not effectively achieve these goals. The group points to issues such as inadequate enforcement, administrative deficiencies in traffic infringement management, and problems in vehicle and driver licensing management.

The Automobile Association (AA) respects the ConCourt’s decision but remains concerned about whether the Aarto Acts will truly improve road safety and reduce accidents on South Africa’s roads. The AA maintains that the legislation seems more focused on revenue collection than on promoting safer roads. Furthermore, the association notes that no evidence suggests that the Aarto pilot project has saved any lives.

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Chief Justice Zondo’s judgment stressed that the Aarto Act, similar to the National Road Traffic Act, appropriately regulates matters at the national level. The ruling prevents the potential chaos that would arise if each province or municipality had its own set of road safety rules. However, it does not prevent provinces or municipalities from implementing additional rules or offences to address regional or local concerns.

The ConCourt’s ruling establishes the constitutionality of the Aarto Act and paves the way for its implementation across South Africa. Motorists can expect the introduction of demerit points as a means to enforce road traffic compliance and promote safer driving practices.


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Photo by Abdulwahab Alawadhi

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