Traffic Fines - The new demerit point system


I had very little knowledge of how the new demerit point system works, so I took it upon myself to hunt down Paul Pauwen, president of the South African Vehicle and Rental Association and director of U Drive, to get more information.

How it works

In addition to the fine itself, demerit points are recorded against offending drivers. These demerits may lead to the suspension of the driver’s licence of habitual offenders. Although currently shown in the notices, demerit points will not be awarded during the pilot phase, which is currently in place.

Every person starts with zero points and the maximum permissible number of demerit points is twelve. When twelve points are reached, the driver’s licence will be suspended for three months for every demerit point exceeding the twelve point threshold. Law abiding road users are rewarded by seeing the demerit points reduced by one point every three months down to zero if no contraventions occur during that period. A licence will be cancelled when it has been suspended for the third time.

Infringement notice

On receiving an infringement notice via registered mail or in person, the driver will be advised of the number of demerit points earned and have the following options, which they must attend to within the first 32-day period:

- Pay a discounted penalty (50 per cent).

- Make a representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.

- Arrange to pay in installments.

- Nominate the driver of the vehicle.

- Elect to be tried in court.

Courtesy letter

Should the matter not be settled per above within 32 days from the date of the infringement notice, you will be served with a courtesy letter, requesting you to take action within 32 days from date thereof. You no longer have the option of a discounted penalty and you will have to pay a courtesy letter fee. On receipt of the courtesy letter you may:

- Make a representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.

- Arrange to pay in installments.

- Nominate the driver of the vehicle.

- Elect to be tried in court.

Enforcement order

Should you not respond to the courtesy letter, you will be served with an enforcement order. The order will demand that you pay the penalty, the courtesy letter fee, plus an additional enforcement fee within 32 days from the date of the letter of enforcement. Once the enforcement order has been served, the previous options are no longer available to you. Your only option is to apply for the revocation of an enforcement order.

Warrant of execution

Should you not respond to the enforcement order in a satisfactory manner, a warrant will be issued and handed to the sheriff for immediate execution. The warrant may allow the sheriff to:

-  Seize and sell your movable property to defray the penalty, fees and costs applicable.

-  Seize and deface your driver’s licence and/or professional driving permit.

- Remove and deface the licence disks of all your vehicles.

- If applicable, seize and deface the operator cards of all the  vehicles for which you are the registered operator.

- Immobilise all your vehicles.

Go to court

When you receive an infringement notice, a courtesy letter or when your representation for an infringement fails, you may elect to go to court. To elect to go to court you have to give notice by completing form AARTO 10 and submit to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency in the prescribed manner indicated on the form. Upon receipt of your notification, the agency will cancel the infringement notice and issue and serve on you a summons to appear in court. You will also receive a form AARTO 05 acknowledging receipt of your notification.

If you don’t sign for infringement at the Post Office

In terms of the AARTO Act, a document that is sent by registered mail is deemed to have been served on the infringer on the tenth day after the date of postage that appears on the registered slip. It is therefore assumed that you have received the infringement and if you fail to collect same from the post office, the process will continue and you will be sent a courtesy letter.

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offenses Act 1998 is currently in its pilot phase in Tshwane and in the Johannesburg municipal area. It is envisaged that it will be rolled out nationally during 2010 to replace the current systems which falls under the Criminal Procedure Act.

When up and running, and after the system has developed some historical data, it would be beneficial for insurers to have access to same as it would greatly assist the insurance industry in risk profiling drivers and rating their car insurance premiums accordingly.

While frustrating and new, the demerit system should result in benefits for individuals, the country and insurers. Hopefully it will encourage drivers to become more tolerant of each other and abide by the laws of the road.

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