What to know: new driver’s demerit system

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill into law in August 2019. The new law will introduce a demerit system that could ultimately end with Johannesburg’s habitual traffic offenders’ driver’s licences being suspended.

If implemented, it will be beneficial to all road users, but we’re left with tons of questions – is this more a ‘money-spinner’ than an aid? Will this really resolve current traffic problems, or will the rest of South Africa just be more cautious than ever before? Will this European point system really work in our rainbow nation?

We don’t have the answers, but if it could reduce the high rate of road deaths (over 14 000 road deaths annually with an economic impact of R146bn), we could surely try it. The system will also have a direct effect on car insurance, as it could potentially be linked to an underwriting criterion as it does reflect driving behaviour. Drivers with a poor record on this system could face higher premiums, while good drivers could benefit from better premiums. Whatever the case may be, here is what you need to know about the new driver demerit system.

How will the new driver demerit system work?

Every driver will start with zero points to their name and will face a three-month licence suspension if they exceed 12 points. One point is reduced every three months if no further violations occur, but the licence will be permanently cancelled if suspended three times.

The suspended driver will then have to reapply for testing as if they are a first-time licence applicant. The new system will also encourage drivers to speed up paying traffic fines – if not paid up, the system will prevent you from renewing your driver’s licence and vehicle licence.

Traffic offences that would add to demerit points

These points will work on a cumulative basis and will be allocated per violation as opposed to per incident. From the lowest to the highest allocation of points:

  • Using and holding a mobile phone while driving will be one demerit point.
  • Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles) is one demerit point, and for buses and trucks, it’s two points.
  • Speeding can be between two and six points, depending on the speed limit.
  • Driving without a licence equals four demerit points.
  • Driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance will be six demerit points.

Click here for the full list of violations, penalties and demerit points.

How can you avoid points piling up?

  • Adhere to speed limits.
  • Maintain a safe following distance between your car and the car ahead of you.
  • Put away your mobile phone – whatever it is, it can wait until you reach your destination.
  • Look after your vehicle – make sure it’s roadworthy at all times.
  • If your vehicle is being used as public transport, it’s a legal requirement to test your vehicle for roadworthiness annually.
  • Be courteous and adhere to good road manners.
  • Respect road rules and fellow motorists.
  • Be more tolerant and patient to avoid aggressive driving.

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