We’ve been talking about the road traffic demerit system for a very long time, and it’s always led to contentious and heated debates. But whatever your stance was on the proposal, it has now been signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The first two questions that most of us have are: how is going to work and how is it going to affect me?
How will it work?
The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) explains that every motorist will start with 0 points, and that one to six points will be allocated per road offence. If someone accumulates 12 or more points, this will result in a three-month suspension of their licence. And if someone is suspended three times, their licence will be cancelled.
If your licence is cancelled, you will have to reapply for licence testing as though you are a first-time applicant.
But it’s not all bad. Motorists who stick to road rules will also be rewarded with a reduction of 1 point every three months down to zero.
Unless “the court finds that the court process is being delayed deliberately by that person to obtain a reduction in points”.
And just in case you were wondering, the good ol’ fine is going nowhere – the points you accumulate will also be accompanied by the relevant fines.
Why is it happening?
AARTO explains that this measure has been taken to “penalise drivers and operators who are habitual offenders”.
The new system will come into effect as soon as the law has been gazetted with a commencement date.
Breakdown: what each offence will cost you
Here’s a quick look at what each offence will cost you in points with the demerit system, according to BusinessTech:
- Driving without a licence: 4 points
- Using your phone while driving: 1 point
- Skipping a stop sign: 1 point (for light vehicles)
- Speeding: between 2 and 6 points
- Driving while intoxicated (on any intoxicating substance): 6 points
We asked ordinary people what they thought. Here’s what they had to say…
I have hope.. Ish…
“I hope it works – my gut says it will at least help. A boyfriend from a loooooong time ago had his licence suspended on the demerit system while living in Jersey. On his return to SA, licence back in hand, he drove like a saint. Wouldn’t even drive after one beer. Obeyed the rules. I felt safe in the car with him. So ja, one example of the system working.” – Susan Barrett
I’m a decent driver, but I’d probably get suspended
“I don’t think this system will work in our country, especially with taxi drivers and road users being careless on a daily basis. I also believe it may take a while for all South Africans to get used to the system. I have a driving app that is attached to my car insurance and it monitors my driving and gives me a full report at the end of each month. Time and time again, my results are a disaster, not because I’m a bad driver (lol) but because I forget I’m being ‘watched’. So, my licence would probably be suspended. But also, how would the traffic department monitor this? They would need to employ more staff members, I assume.” – Ondela Mlandu
DUIs should decrease
“I think the demerit system is fantastic because it will definitely curb a lot of the drinking-and-driving incidences. A lot of the repeat offenders will also finally learn their lesson because they usually don’t learn until they are in an accident or something drastic happens. I’m hoping this will also reduce the overall number of accidents on the road, and that people will become a lot more conscious of their driving.” – Palesa Vilakazi
It could just end up a hot mess
“I just think that in a country where the transport system isn’t up to scratch, we have to factor in the possibility of this demerit system being an absolute mess. When your licence is finally taken away because you’ve been terrible on the road, what is supposed to happen? I just feel like it will create a lot more havoc than good. Instead of looking at first-world countries and copying what systems work for them, we need to start tailoring things that are unique to us and our experience.” – Kemong Mopedi
Has anyone thought about the corruption?
“I don’t see the demerit system being practical because as it stands, the traffic department is already corrupt and in shambles. So with regard to the upkeep of the documents and demerits and all of that – would they really be a true reflection of what’s happening?” – Zizipho Mqingwana
We’re not exactly getting an A for admin so far…
“Look, it’s scaring us and I think it’s definitely going to make us drive more cautiously, but I don’t know if it’s going to be feasible in our country in the long-run. The whole subtracting and adding of points I foresee to be an issue. In this country we’re not good with admin, so who’s going to be busy with all that?” – Sisonke Labase