The AARTO Act seeks to introduce a points demerit system.
Simply put, points demerit systems worldwide are intended to discourage motorists from disobeying the law by putting their privilege to drive in jeopardy if they flout the law. If applied properly, this concept is arguably a good one.
Although it is not in force yet in South Africa, this is how the points demerit system is designed to operate:
- Everyone starts with no (zero) demerit points on their driving licence.
- Different demerit points for each infringement and offence are prescribed in Schedule 3 to the AARTO Regulations.
- Demerit points are added to a person’s driving licence or a vehicle’s operator card when:
- The penalty (fine) is paid;
- If an alleged infringer applies to pay in instalments;
- If an alleged infringer or offender is found guilty in a Court of Law; or
- When an enforcement order is issued.
- A threshold of demerit points that may be incurred before a driving licence or operator card is suspended is prescribed in the AARTO Regulations.
- The current prescribed threshold is 12 points.
- The draft AARTO Amendment Regulations seeks to increase this level to 15 points.
- When the threshold is exceeded, a driving licence will be suspended for 3 months for each demerit point over the threshold.
- This does not mean that a driving licence or operator card will only be suspended for 3 months.
- If the threshold is 12 points and 15 points are accumulated prior to suspension, the suspension period will be nine months.
- If the threshold is 15 points and 17 points are accumulated prior to suspension, the suspension period will be six months.
- A driving licence or operator card may be suspended twice only.
- During the suspension period of a driving licence, its holder may not drive.
- During the suspension period of an operator card, the vehicle it applies to may not be driven.
- Driving whilst one’s driving licence is suspended is a criminal offence.
- Operating a vehicle whilst its operator card is suspended is a criminal offence.
- If a driving licence or operator card has already been cancelled twice, and demerit points in excess of the threshold are again incurred, the driving licence or operator card will be cancelled.
- In the case of a driving licence, this means starting with a learner’s licence, once the ban period has lapsed.
- In the case of an operator card, it is not clear what this means because such cancellation may mean that the vehicle is scrapped.
The AARTO Amendment Act seeks to introduce a “driver rehabilitation programme” which is applicable to “habitual infringers” only. An “habitual infringer” is defined by the AARTO Amendment Act as “an infringer, operator or a juristic person who, in terms of section 25, incurs demerit points resulting in a disqualification more than two times”.
“More than two times” is obviously three times and therefore, this programme can only lawfully be applied to persons or entities whose driving licences and operating cards have been cancelled.