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The AARTO Amendment Act 4 of 2019 – how the Demerit System may impact South African motorists?

Important amendments to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act 46 of 1998 (as amended) were signed into law in August 2019.

These amendments to the AARTO Act (following on from AARTO Amendment Bill (B38B of 2015) will affect all motorists very significantly.

The AARTO Amendment Act 4 of 2019 will come into law shortly bringing into law the much derised ‘Demerit points system’. The systems should be implemented full by June 2020.

For motorists this would not be the first time that you would have heard about the Demerit system. In fact the government tried unsuccessfully to implement the Demerit system a few times since as far back as 1998.

Useful Summary for motorists:

How will the 12-Point System Work?

  1. Motorists start with zero points.
  2. Points are allocated according to penalties for offence/s committed and the severity thereof, similar to the laws of other countries utilizing a similar demerits system.
  3. Points are allocated on the date of the infringement.
  4. Infringements by drivers of transportation industries vehicles are not allocated directly on the drivers’ own licences but instead points are allocated to their companies operators’ permits.
  5. If you incur the maximum threshold of 12 points, your licence (and/or operator card) is suspended with effect from 32 days thereafter from the date upon which the twelfth point is allocated.
  6. The suspension period is calculated in months equal to the number of points exceeding 12, multiplied by three (or such number as may be prescribed by the Minister of Transport). The driver/operator may apply for the return of the licence on expiry of the suspension (disqualification) period.
  1. A driver/operator who is disqualified for the third time will permanently lose the license/operator card and will have to re-apply for testing and issuing thereof (as if a first-time license/operator applicant) after expiry of the disqualification period.
  2. Demerit points will be reduced for all persons/operators at a rate on one point per every 3 months, except in the case where the evidence points to the fact that the process has been delayed to obtain a reduction in points.
  3. The issuing of points (ie. demerits) will be added depending on the type of offence/s and the severity thereof, as indicated below:-
Infringements and applicable Demerit points
InfringementFine amountDemerit points
Driving an unregistered vehicleR5001
Driving an unlicensed vehicleR5001
Driving a vehicle with a licence plate not visibleR5001
Driving without a driving licenceR1 2504
Driving without a seat beltR2500
Driving under the influence of an intoxicating substanceDetermined by court6
Driving while holding and using a cell-phoneR5001
Failing to stop
Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles)R5001
Skipping a stop sign (buses, trucks)R7502
Skipping a red light (light vehicles)R5001
Skipping a red light (buses, trucks)R7502
Failing to yield to a pedestrianR5001
Overtaking and overloading
Overtaking across a barrier line (light vehicles)R5001
Overtaking across a barrier line (buses, trucks)R7502
Overloading a vehicle with max 56 000kg combination mass by 12-13.99%R1 5005
81-85km/h in a 60km/h zoneR7502
100km/h+ in a 60km/h zoneDetermined by court6
106-110km/h in an 80km/h zoneR1 0003
120km/h+ in an 80km/h zoneDetermined by court6
121-125km/h in a 100km/h zoneR7502
131-135km/h in a 100km/h zoneR1 2504
140km/h+ in a 100km/h zoneDetermined by court6
131-135km/h in a 120km/h zoneR2500
141-145km/h in a 120km/h zoneR7502
151-155km/h in a 120km/h zone1 2504
160km/h+ in a 120km/h zoneDetermined by court6

The AARTO amendment act 4 of 2019 introduces, inter alia, the following significant changes to the law:

  1. a) Traffic Demerit Points System in terms of which the following shall apply:
  2. the removal of the courts from the AARTO process which is to be replaced by a dedicated Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA);
  3. the delivery (ie. legal service) of traffic fines and notices by electronic means using sms and/or whats app messaging is permitted;
  4. the RTIA will have the power to administer rehabilitation programmes for repeat offenders, to be known as habitual offenders.
  5. traffic infringements will be handled differently, i.e. transgressors can make written representations to the RTIA, should this be rejected there is an appeal and review process available to the Tribunal, with a further review to the Magistrates Courts.
  6. motorists can challenge infringements within 30 days;
  7. If a motorist collects more than 12 points, it will result in the suspension of the driving licence and three suspensions will result in the cancellation of the licence, and further possible sanctions such as the renewal or re-issuing of a drivers license or vehicle licence disc will be blocked.

Will It Work?

Similar demerits systems have been successful in many parts of Europe and Australasia and continue to be implemented worldwide in an effort by countries to curb road traffic infringements, contraventions, insurance claims and the escalation of insurance premiums for motorists. In addition, road traffic crimes, including culpable homicides, road accidents, unlawful deaths of breadwinners are believed to be capable of being reduced as a consequence of a demerits systems.

Furthermore, road rage crime is also a scourge on our roads which is growing at an alarming rate and which the authorities must eliminate with a zero tolerance and imprisonment policy in the future.

The abuse of road traffic rules and regulations by the drivers of company delivery vehicles such as:

  • delivery buses;
  • delivery trucks (ie. petrol trucks, furniture removal trucks, municipal refuse trucks); and
  • courier delivery vehicles

needs to be particularly monitored and penalized heavily.

Road carnage caused by the negligent and sometimes gross negligent driving of these vehicles has existed for far too long on our neighbourhood and national roads.

Vicarious liability for these road carnage accidents is not the answer as invariably the true culprits are not jailed for their gross negligence and in many instances the actions of these drivers can actually amount to intentional forms of road carnage on the basis of dolus eventualis.

One aspect which needs to be considered is the independent and electronically controlled speeds of these delivery vehicles by use of so-called Truck Governors which make us of satellite control of the speed of buses trucks and other heavy duty vehicles travelling on suburban and national roads. In addition, in many countries these vehicles are not permitted to travel on these roads during peak hours and indeed only during designated times at night with clearly visible illumination not only on the vehicle itself but also on the carriages and trailers.

Another aspect which needs to be considered in the traffic infringements of JMPD and other police department officers acting outside of the scope of their employment in causing accidents, fatalities and other forms of road carnage.

How exactly will these perpetrators be “demerited”?


Many motorists may still harbour mistrust in the traffic police and continue to question the certainty of their infringements and/or the procedures to be followed according to the AARTO Amendment Act.

Time will tell as to exactly how the amendments will impact the existing problems on the roads and precisely how the procedural aspects pertaining to infringements will be handled by the RTIA.