One of South Africa's greatest challenges is to reduce the carnage on our roads significantly. The fact that more than 90% of all road accidents are preceded by a road traffic offence makes the improvement of road-user perceptions, attitudes and behaviour a matter of urgency.
The challenge of a high rate of non-compliance with traffic regulations, coupled with a continuous downward trend in the finalization of offences and a judicial system that is unable to effectively deal with traffic infringements, must be dealt with absolute priority.
Two of the most important catalysts in effecting an improvement in driver behaviour and law compliance are well planned, efficient and effective law enforcement coupled with and supported by an equally effective and just road traffic adjudication system.
- In both instances the previous adjudication process showed serious limitations and failures:
- The previous adjudication process resulted in many traffic notices not being considered by the courts and not concluded.
- Fine collection was totally inadequate as fines were either not paid, or were substantially reduced by the magistrates; or bribes were paid to get off the fine altogether. In some areas courts only accepted the hearing of a limited number of traffic violations, which was detrimental to the necessary successful conclusion of all traffic-related cases.
- As a result less than 20% of traffic cases were finalised and the fines paid.
In the past, all traffic contraventions in terms of the provisions of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), 1996 (Act No 93 of 1996) and its Regulations were administered in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No 51 of 1977).
The Administrative of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act, No. 46 of 1998, which was approved by Parliament in 1998, was, amongst others, created with the view to forge a closer and more effective and efficient link between enforcement and the adjudication process, yet which is still objective, transparent and fair.
AARTO brings with it parity of fines which will encourage the road using public to take traffic offences and resulting fines much more seriously. It also brings with it improved fine collection procedures and a revenue stream that will be used for improving road safety; as well as more convenient ways of paying fines and more penalties for not paying within the prescribed time, eventually leading to confiscation of movable property and ultimately to being declared unfit to operate a motor vehicle.
The objectives of AARTO are, amongst others:
- to encourage the payment of penalties imposed for infringements;
- to establish a procedure for the effective and expeditious adjudication of infringements;
- to encourage compliance with the national and provincial laws;
- to alleviate the burden on the courts of trying offenders for infringements;
- to penalise drivers and operators who are guilty of infringements or offences through the imposition of demerit points leading to the suspension and cancellation of driving licences, professional driving permits or operator cards.