THE article on AARTO in February CAR covered the basic principles of the proposed demerit point system and for all we hoped that April 1, 2011 that was the proposed or intended implementation date. This seems most unlikely as no date has yet been promulgated by the Minister. The Minister has however indicated that he is fully committed to implementing AARTO as a priority of his department and his commitment is promising and hopeful.
One concern that many share is the so called “roll out” plan. Most feel that it should be implemented nationally and that the time used to gain experience in Tshwane and Johannesburg should have been adequate. To implement it on a partial basis in certain areas will lead to confusion and may raise constitutional issues.
It appears that the main constitutional issues of the Act have been addressed by the RTMC as well as the problems with the structure of the legislation and that these will apparently be ironed out before it is implemented. Given the fact the law removes one of the primary complaints by many that has been the centre of controversy for years under the present system, being that the present system is solely revenue based, is removed or at least minimised under AARTO, on this principle alone it must receive credit. It also gives some measure of assurance of effective law enforcement and compliance with traffic law because it entrenches deterrence. This fundamental legal principle should be supported by all who have concern about the safety of road users and the high fatality rate on SA roads.
The implementation of AARTO is an opportunity lawyers, traffic management experts and the public to have their input into ensuring that the demerit system, or put differently the decriminalisation of traffic offences, will not only be properly structured but that it should eliminate the majority problems under the current system that most have stood firmly opposed to. Issues such as the abusive road block arrests for petty traffic violations should be a thing of the past. Uncertainty of one’s legal rights, the amount of a fine and legal process that lay at the foundation of many allegations of bribery and corruption will be reduced drastically. Under AARTO fines are set for all municipal areas and cannot be varied and the process is clearly prescribed.
No doubt AARTO will have teething problems but the demerit system is the only known system that holds some measure of hope in succeeding in effective law enforcement and reducing the deaths and casualties on our roads. Those who await its introduction only to challenge it on legal grounds should think again and rather take joint responsibility with the RTMC and participate in ensuring that we have a road traffic legal system that is comparable to those in other countries where the demerit systems have proven to save lives and ensure that traffic laws are upheld to the benefit of all road users.
AARTO cannot be delayed unnecessarily. The cost to SA is far too high and every year it is delayed we are losing more and more lives to collisions where compliance with traffic laws would have prevented or minimised these fatalities and trauma.
If you have any comment about the AARTO system please let us have your view. It is your legal system and you should have your say and input. The public will still need to be protected against abuse of power and misuse of traffic law enforcement procedures and systems by traffic law enforcement bodies and vigilance is necessary. This will be an ongoing process of evaluation and monitoring by various interested bodies, the legal profession and motoring organisations.