Points system no-go without law enforcement - AA

July 10, 2008

The Automobile Association (AA) has warned that the new driver's licence demerit points system needs to be backed by effective law enforcement, rather than revenue generation, if it is to reduce South Africa's horrific road death toll.

The long-delayed system of penalising traffic offenders by recording demerit points against their licences forms part of the department of transport's "administrative adjudication of road traffic offences" initiative, which was implemented as a pilot project in Pretoria last week.

It will be rolled out in Johannesburg towards the end of 2008 and nationally thereafterThe demerit points system is expected to become operational in 2009

The demerit points system is expected to become operational in 2009 and will target repeat traffic offenders by recording demerit points against their names each time an offence is committed as well as fining them.

If a driver accumulates more than 12 points his or her licence will be suspended.

An AA spokesman said: "The AA is strongly supportive of systematic administration; it provides an excellent framework for the reduction of road accidents.

"But the fly in the ointment is the poor quality of law enforcement.

"The budgets of many municipalities receive a large contribution from traffic fines and the focus has been on securing this revenue stream, usually by speed trapping," he added.

"The AA is concerned that people will be unfairly victimised for repeated minor infractions resulting from revenue-driven enforcement, even losing their driving licences'Almost 66 percent of fines issued are for speeding'

"The benefits of administrative adjudication of road traffic offences will only be realised by municipalities that target truly dangerous drivers ahead of revenue generation."

The AA also expressed concern at the high number of drivers without licences or with illegally obtained licences.

Its spokesman pointed out that these drivers would fall outside the enforcement net and that the demerit points system would discourage them from obtaining a valid licence."

Enforcement rates for serious offences that directly caused fatal collisions were negligible, he said.

Reckless driving, barrier line offences and unsafe overtaking combined accounted for less than one percent of all fines issued, while almost 66 percent of fines issued were for speeding.

"Selective enforcement of lucrative offences is one of the main reasons that the risk of death on South African roads has virtually doubled from 1998 to 2006," he said.

How the system works

Demerit points will be recorded for every traffic offence on a sliding scale dependent on the severity of the offence. If you accumulate more than twelve points your licence will be suspended for three months for every point more than twelve.

So if you have 14 points your licence will be suspended 2 x 3 months six months.

One point will expire every three months, however, as long as you don't accumulate any more points during that time.

Demerit points accumulated by unlicensed or learner drivers will only start to expire after these drivers are issued with licences and unlicensed drivers will be arrested if caught three times.

Find out more at the administrative adjudication of road traffic offences website.