Proposed AARTO regulations need a rapid rethink
The revised AARTO regulations create a bureaucratic tangle aimed at collecting as much money as possible and are likely to leave motorists frustrated and defiant.
This is a technically complicated administrative system which will be difficult for many motorists to navigate. It relies on competent, efficient and honest officials who can process the red tape and refuse bribes from motorists desperate to hold onto their licences.
The draft of the Amendment of Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Regulations was issued on 11 October 2019 and the public has 30 days to comment. The original regulations date from July 2008; the sections on the demerits were never implemented but will be under the AARTO Amendment Act.
Our initial assessment of the amended regulations is that AARTO is an administrative nightmare for both motorists accused of infringements and officials who must implement the regulations.
The main body of the regulations (excluding the lengthy schedules) is longer: the original version was 23 pages while the update is 37 pages. The bureaucracy is substantial, cumbersome and has expanded.
For example, the 2008 regulations set out 37 special AARTO forms plus four National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) forms for use in the enforcement process. These have now expanded to 51, plus five NRTA forms. There’s a form for everything.
The form for an infringement notice (form AARTO 3a) lists 33 pieces of information to be provided on the motorist plus some optional extras.
The process from receiving an infringement notice to challenging it successfully is so convoluted that we expect most who receive those notices to give up. The proposed Tribunal should hope they give up, because it’s not clear how it will be able to process thousands of challenges in the 45-day limit. Those who rack up demerits and lose their licences face having to pay for their own rehabilitation training; if they fail, they must wait a year before trying again.
Even those who would be prepared to comply and pay up may find that infringement notices don’t reach them.
There’s a big push to make money in this system by bullying those served with infringement notices or summonses to just pay up immediately and shut up.
There’s a nasty new “infringement penalty levy” of R100 charged on every infringement committed: this is in addition to the fine and there’s no discount on it.
Those who can’t afford the fines but make arrangements to pay them off (over a maximum of 10 months) are penalised by losing the discount. How is penalising the poor fair?
Contesting fines is risky. Those who pay within 28 days get a 50% discount. But those who contest fines, and lose, are penalised by being required to pay the full undiscounted fine plus fees for opposing it. How is this fair?
Paying late or contesting fines attracts extra fees: R100 for a “courtesy letter” reminder and R100 for an enforcement order confirming the fine and demerits.
Motorists pay R60 to R240 to check how many demerit points they have and R60 per report for copies of infringement reports.
The SAPS must train its members on AARTO, the regulations and how to fill in the forms (the SAPS must carry this cost). The issuing authorities (provinces and municipalities) must issue the SAPS with AARTO notice books (the issuing authorities pay for this) so police can issue fines. All revenue collected from the fines collected by the SAPS is split 50:50 between the RTIA and the relevant issuing authority. SAPS gets nothing.
The infringements and offences
The list of infringements and offences (Schedule 3) is the only part of the 2008 regulations which is retained. Amendments to the regulations in 2010 and 2013 have been repealed, although both contain updates to Schedule 3 including the addition of certain categories of speeding fines, so those updates appear to have been lost.
This schedule lists 2055 infringements and offences: 1929 infringements and 126 offences. The infringements carry up to five demerits per charge and the offences carry six demerits each.
As the regulations have defaulted to the 2008 version, with the 2008 fines, we’re not sure what has happened to any subsequent increases in speeding fines.
The demerits system for those running fleets has changed. The previous version added up all the demerits linked to each vehicle in a fleet. Now the fleet operators receive the infringement notice and may send the issuing authority the details of the nominated drivers – but these must be the full details (remember those 33 pieces of information that AARTO wants on individuals?) and if the operators can’t provide those, the fine and demerits automatically return to the operators.
Numerous references to other sections of the regulations are incorrect.
We’re concerned that it will cost an enormous amount to make AARTO work, but that Government doesn’t have the resources to implement this. The pilot projects were overwhelmed by postage costs.
The infringement notices issued at the roadside must be completed on electronic equipment. Do the traffic police and SAPS have these? Who pays for them?
Those pesky e-tolls
The infringements in Schedule 3 include charge codes 3820 and 3821: “Failed to comply with the directions conveyed by a road traffic sign by using a toll road without paying the toll charge.” For vehicles which do not require a roadworthy certificate (think of bicycles and donkey carts) the discounted fine is R125 with no demerits, for vehicles which do require an RWC the discounted fine is R250 plus one demerit. We’ve raised this issue before as a concern that it will be used against e-toll defaulters but it’s still in the schedule.
Your comment is valuable
There is a public comment period of 30 days on the draft regulations, which ends on 10 November.
We encourage public comment on this vital issue.
The draft Amendment of the AARTO Regulations is here.
Our webpage here has information on how to comment.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is assessing the draft regulations and will submit comment to the Department.