Massive e-toll fines on the cards

Motorists pass through a toll gantry on the N1 north, near Malibongwe Drive, 11 August 2011. Cabinet has approved reduced toll tariffs for the Gauteng freeway improvement project (GFIP) phase A1. Motorcycles would pay 24 cents a kilometre, light motor vehicles 40 cents, medium vehicles R1, and ÒlongerÓ vehicles R2. Picture: Michel Bega

If the Aarto Acts and regulations are implemented in their current form, motorists who travel on Gauteng’s roads without paying their e-tolls will be fined R500 every time they pass under a gantry.

Motorists have until the beginning of December to comment on draft regulations that will see them pay a R100 levy when issued with a traffic fine and impose a R500 fine on individual e-toll defaulters every time they pass under a gantry.

The regulations to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) and related amendment act that were published in the Government Gazette earlier this month will, once finalised, be implemented countrywide on July 1 next year – provided they survive a constitutional challenge by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

According to Outa head of legal affairs Stefanie Fick, Aarto provides for a system of traffic law enforcement controlled by national government.

This usurps the powers reserved for provincial and local governments in the Constitution.

Assumptions and consequences

Outa further argues that the provisions in the Aarto Amendment Act for electronic service of documents are inadequate in light of the serious consequences should an alleged transgressor not receive Aarto notices.

The organisation says in its court papers that infringement notices served by email, SMS or WhatsApp messages could be blocked by firewalls or land in junk files.

ALSO READ: E-tolls here to stay and road users expected to pay – Sanral

In terms of the Act, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), which implements Aarto, assumes that after 10 days the notice has been successfully delivered and proceeds with a process that could result in R200 of further levies, demerit points and the blocking of the motorist on the eNatis database

Once the eNatis account is blocked, the owner of the vehicle cannot renew their driver’s or vehicle licences – and if they buy or sell vehicles, will be unable to register or deregister such.

A driver with more than 15 demerit points, will see their driver’s licence suspended.

Outa wants personal service of documents or registered mail to be the only permissible way of notifying alleged transgressors of their fines.

RTIA registrar Japh Chuwe denies Outa’s contentions. According to him, Aarto creates a national framework for consistent traffic law enforcement and does not encroach on other spheres of government.

He further states that motorists will, when registering a vehicle, opt for the mode of communication they prefer. Registered mail has not been removed as a mode of service and vehicle owners who don’t want to be served electronically, won’t be.

No court date has been set.

More voices

The City of Cape Town and Western Cape Provincial Government are also considering a legal challenge to the implementation of the Act next year, according to Cape Town member of the mayoral committee JP Smith.

The Automobile Association (AA) has slammed Aarto as a money-making racket pretending to promote road safety.

AA spokesperson Layton Beard says the R100 levy for every infringement notice is unreasonable and unfair.

If the motorist fails to respond to the notice, they will be issued with a courtesy letter and if their inaction persists, an enforcement order.

Each of these will also attract a R100 levy that is over and above the fine itself and demerit points.

“It is like having to pay to submit your tax return,” Beard says.

Cornelia van Niekerk, owner of Fines4U, which administers traffic fines on behalf of thousands of individual vehicle owners and businesses, says motorists will be punished three times – with the fine, the levies and the demerit points.

If the Aarto Acts and regulations are implemented in their current form, motorists who travel on Gauteng’s roads without paying their e-tolls will be fined R500 every time they pass under a gantry.

‘Not a debt collection exercise’

The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) says this is not a debt collection exercise, but traffic law enforcement that has been provided for for a long time.

The actual transgression is ignoring a traffic sign that directs the motorist to pay.

Fick says it might have been provided for in law, but it has never been implemented.

If it is, a return trip between Pretoria and Sandton will cost the motorist R4,000 in fines and a further R800 in levies. Businesses will be fined R1 000 per gantry pass.

Although failure to pay e-tolls and normal tolls do not attract demerit points, ignoring the fines will result in the suspension of the owner’s eNatis account and as a result it would be impossible to renew vehicle and drivers’ licences.

This article first appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission.

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