CAPE TOWN, The South African National Assembly has given the thumbs up to a Bill which will introduce a demerit system that will see serial traffic offenders losing their driver’s licences.

The Bill to amend the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act of 1998 was approved here Tuesday by a vote of 225 MPs in favour while 88 MPs rejected it. The Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces, the upper chamber of Parliament, for concurrence.

Leading the debate on the Bill prior to the vote, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said the Bill was being introduced to improve driver behaviour on the back of an alarming rise in carnage on South Africa’s roads.

The tabling of this Bill is a direct result of the untenable and unsustainable road safety situation in our country. We are experiencing a tremendous loss of lives, especially of young people, as well as the continued breakdown of road traffic laws, he said.

Over the past three years, he added, the road safety situation had been badly impacted, a situation which could not be allowed to continue. South Africa needed to urgently act with a determined commitment to change the road safety situation, he said.

The amendment to the Aarto Act seeks to promote road traffic quality by providing for a scheme to discourage road traffic rules contraventions; facilitate the adjudication of road traffic infringement to support the prosecution of offences in terms of the national and provincial laws relating to road traffic; and implement the demerit points system and provide for an establishment of an agency to administer the scheme.

Maswanganyi said the amendment Bill would further pave the way for the administration of the demerit points system; the establishment of the rehabilitation programme for offenders; the establishment of the Infringements Appeals Tribunal in order to empower any road user to attend to any issue related to offences and to introduce the serving of documents through electronic means.

When we implement Aarto nationally, we will also implement the demerit points system. The point demerit system provides for an easy and objective mechanism of identifying habitual infringers so that the applicable penalties can be effected on them,” the Minister said.

Those that continue to break the law will find themselves ultimately losing their driving licenses through suspensions and cancellations. We must remember that the driving licence always belongs to government. Furthermore, Aarto does not only provide for punitive measures, it is a forgiving system in that it provides for the rehabilitation of drivers.

Those drivers, who would have lost their driving licences, can be redeemed through the rehabilitation programmes. In this way, we then influence those drivers to change their behaviour to [comply with] road traffic laws.”

The Minister said the Bill will make provision for the electric service of documents, which makes it easier for all road users to be informed of their status of infringements. It further ensures that the service of documents is effected at the lowest cost, he added.