A summary of what AARTO is all about.
If you expect this section to be short, then you are going to be disappointed. AARTO is complicated and cumbersome but we will try and summarise the facts as concisely as possible. Please read through all of the sections to familiarise yourself with what AARTO is all about.
The nationwide rollout of AARTO has been repeatedly delayed by the Department of Transport, but AARTO is in force in the operational areas of Johannesburg (JMPD) since 1 November 2008 and Pretoria (TMPD) since 1 July 2008.
To date it has not been rolled out to any other area in South Africa but it has been announced that it will be during the current government financial year.
The points-demerit system will come into effect at a time to be announced by the Minister of Transport, even though there are people who tell you that it is already in force. Do not believe these people as they almost always have ulterior motives for wanting you to believe them. The one thing that we can tell you with certainty is that the points demerit system cannot be applied only to certain jurisdictions in the country without violating the constitution.
Background of the AARTO Act.
AARTO is an acronym for the "Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences".
This Act was enacted in 1998 and started with a "pilot phase" in Pretoria ten years later, in June 2008 under the administration of the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD).
In November 2008, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) came on board as the second municipal district to adopt AARTO as its functional operation for dealing with traffic offences but only managed to get the process right with effect from March 2009. They then promptly went on to violate the AARTO Act by continuing to issue notices under the Criminal Procedure Act and all fines issued by them between 1 November 2008 and 11 February 2009 were summarily cancelled and refunds of fine monies ordered to be repaid. As of now, this has not been completed.
The "pilot phase" ended on 1 April 2010 and some major changes in application of the Act came into play on the part of the JMPD. Fines issued to Juristic persons (proxies for companies) suddenly got tripled by one of the JMPD only whilst the TMPD and RTMC continued not doing so. A fine that was R250 under the "pilot phase" suddenly and without warning became R750 in the case of vehicles registered to a company when issued by the JMPD.
This is 100% legitimate in terms of the AARTO regulations when the points-demerit system comes into play and is one of the many nonsensical provisions that have been enacted. For now though, the points demerit system is not in play, so why then it is that the JMPD triples fines issued to juristic persons whilst the TMPD does not remains a point of conjecture.
AARTO applies differently to private individuals and companies and also to learner drivers and fully licensed drivers. This section will demystify AARTO for you as far as is possible.
AARTO does not replace the National Road Traffic Act - it merely removes its administration under the Criminal Procedures Act and replaces it with AARTO for less serious offences. Serious offences still fall under the Criminal Procedure Act, which means that you will still get a criminal record if you are convicted for one of these offences.
In order to fully understand the meaning of this part of the acronym, one needs to understand the meaning of the words themselves
"Administrative" in this context means " to manage or supervise the execution, use, or conduct of.." ¹
"Adjudication" in this context means "to pass a judicial decision or sentence." ²
The phrase therefore means that traffic offences will be dealt with outside of a court; by appointed officials who are not members of the Judiciary but will act like them. You will not be required or allowed to attend the adjudication. Their decision is final unless you then elect to be tried in court, which constitutes a higher authority.
It is claimed by the engineers of AARTO that adjudicating traffic cases outside of court, will free up valuable court resources to deal with more serious offences and criminal cases.
In theory (once again) this sounds very good, however there are pitfalls to this which you can read about under the pitfalls section. We do however recommend that you complete this section before moving onto the pitfalls section.
The intentions of AARTO.
Road traffic fatalities in South Africa are amongst the highest in the world. That is a sad, sad fact.
The AARTO Act seeks to tackle this problem by imposing hefty fines coupled with demerit-points on driving licences which will lead to the suspension of driving licences where drivers infringe on the law repeatedly.
At face value, this is a very sound principal and there are very few reasonable people who would oppose a system that has the effect on reducing road fatalities.
Points-demerit systems are in force in many countries in the world and have largely achieved far greater driver compliance with the law.
The South African AARTO system is loosely based on a combination of some of the other systems that are in force around the world. Penalising errant drivers in such a way that they could actually lose their driving licences works very well in first world countries like Canada, Australia, the USA and Europe.
Whether the points demerit system will have the desired and/or same effect in South Africa remains to be seen but it is only by implementing it that its efficacy will be able to be measured. Driver attitudes and competency (or lack thereof) remains a big problem in South Africa.
Over 35% of all road fatalities in South Africa involve pedestrians. The lack of safe crossings and ineffective policing in areas where pedestrians are known to run across freeways is a major contributor to this statistic. Few other countries in the world have such hazards as pedestrians regularly running across freeways.
The only similarity between Australia and South Africa is the fact that both countries are in the southern hemisphere. Roads, public transport infrastructures and driver attitudes towards the law in the two countries could not be further apart from one another.
Document last revised: 14 July, 2011