A pilot project to penalise habitual traffic offenders came into operation yesterday in Tshwane, in what the government hopes will help reduce deaths and injuries that cost the country about R43bn a year.
About 15000 people die on SA’s roads every year.

Transport Minister Jeff Radebe said yesterday it was aimed at improving road safety and security by identifying “habitual offenders who disregard the laws and punish them appropriately”.

The system works on points. Drivers who accumulate more than 12 points will have their licences suspended.

The project is being piloted in Tshwane, and will be introduced in Johannesburg in November before being rolled out nationally next year.

With about 15000 accident fatalities in SA a year, the aim is to improve safety on the roads.

Although the Automobile Association of SA (AA) welcomed the administrative improvements the new system is intended to introduce, it has misgivings about enforcement.

“The AA is concerned that people are now at risk of unfair victimisation over repeated minor infractions resulting from revenue-driven enforcement,” said Rob Handfield-Jones, head of public affairs at the AA.

The association expressed concern at the high number of drivers without licences.

“These drivers fall outside the enforcement net,” said Handfield-Jones.

“Their ever-accumulating demerit points may even deter them from obtaining a valid licence,” he said.

Radebe said that enforcement hitches resulted from thecurrent adjudication process, which resulted in many traffic notices not being considered by the courts and left unconcluded. This discouraged enforcement officers, he said.

“The implementation of the (system) forges a closer and more effective and efficient link between the enforcement and the adjudication process.

“It brings parity of fines across the country, which will encourage the road-using public to take traffic violations and resulting fines with the seriousness it deserves,” he said.

Ranthoko Rakgoale, CEO of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, said motorists would accumulate points each time they committed an offence. He said the points depended on the severity of the traffic infringement . Speeding, drunk driving and reckless driving would carry the highest points.

One point would be deducted every three months if a motorist broke no traffic rules.

Radebe said there were many reasons for the “dire” safety situation. “Research has shown that a very high percentage of accidents are preceded by a road traffic violation, which makes the improvement of road-user perceptions, attitudes and behaviour a matter of urgency.”