An e-toll gantry on the N1 through Pretoria. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD
An e-toll gantry on the N1 through Pretoria. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD

SA’s independent adjudicator of traffic infringements and fines has dismissed suggestions that the new legislation enacted to administer road traffic offences will be used to compel Gauteng drivers to pay e-toll fees.

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency said on Monday that media reports linking Aarto to the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Programme’s (GFIP) e-tolls were "misleading".

“This misleading information is disingenuous as the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act  (Aarto) is not intended to be used for the purposes alleged,” the agency said.

The new act, which was signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier in August, will come into force once it is gazetted. Under the new law, drivers will be subject to a demerit points system that will penalise repeat offenders on the road. Once the system is in place, drivers will start with 0 points and will be allowed to drive until they reach a maximum of 12 points.

The licences of drivers who exceed 12 points will be suspended for three months and licences that have been suspended more than three times will be cancelled.

Penalised drivers can retake the learner’s and driver’s tests after the suspension has lapsed.

Motorists who want to challenge a traffic infringement will have to do so in an extrajudicial process, which will be run and managed by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency and not in court, as in the current system.

Rudie Heyneke, portfolio manager for transport for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), said recently the organisation would take the bill to court once it was published in the government gazette.

“It is not only the unconstitutionality that we are worried about. There are a lot of other little things that need to be explained. What’s also very worrying are the costs to implement this,” Heyneke said.

He said the bill could be used to force Gauteng drivers to pay e-toll fees.

But the Road Traffic Infringement Agency said it is public knowledge that Ramaphosa established a task team headed by transport minister Fikile Mbalula to craft solutions related to the operations of the GFIP. 

“The so-called experts are behaving like prophets of doom, claiming, among others, that the Aarto bypasses ‘normal traffic legislation and tackle offenders in ways which many view as unconstitutional because they deprive citizens of their right to a fair judicial process’,” the agency said.

It said there is nothing unconstitutional with respect to how Aarto is developed and how it will work. 

“In fact, Aarto provides even more protection to infringers to exercise their rights.  Firstly, [it] decriminalises the majority of traffic violations so that they are dealt with administratively.  This means that one will not attract a criminal record for committing a traffic infringement, whereas being found guilty of the same infringement in the courts, can result in a criminal record,” the agency said.

The new law is primarily designed to promote compliance, which will result in safety on SA roads, it said.  

“The law is developed against the backdrop of about 14,000 road users dying on our road network every year. Some of the road crashes and fatalities occur due to lack of recourse on habitual infringers. Aarto, through its provisions such as the points demerit system, will track and remove repeat infringers from our road network.  

“Furthermore, [it] provides two layers of protection to infringers/motorists, by virtue of two separate and independent structures, being the [agency]  and the Infringement Appeals Tribunal.”