The Department of Roads & Transport has recently put the South African Demerit system in place which means that breaking the law by speeding or using a mobile phone while driving will not only have serious repercussions on your bank account, but depending on the severity and repeated offensive could mean that your license could be suspended or permanently revoked.
In essence, the implementation of the demerit system seeks to change the behaviour of motorists and its overarching goal is road safety. It’s being firmly entrenched nationwide as of 1 April 2012, so here’s what you need to know to stay on the right side of the law – and in the driver’s seat.
Traffic violation categories
Traffic violations now fall into three categories – minor infringements, major infringements and traffic offences. Each of these leads to the accumulation of demerit points.
Every driver starts off with no points on their licence. Demerit points are allocated to your record if you’re found guilty of committing either an infringement or an offence. Motorists must ensure that they never exceed 12 points, or their driving licences will either be suspended or cancelled.
The minor and major infringements are regular fines for speeding, ignoring a traffic sign, driving with an expired licence disc and breaking other rules.
Traffic offences are more serious. These include being a major hazard to other drivers by driving at an extremely high speed, and penalties include prison sentences (effective or suspended), substantial fines or a combination of both.
Once you’ve been served with an infringement notice (a ticket) for any violation, you have 32 days to pay the fine. For minor and major infringements you can pay the penalty within 32 days and immediately qualify for a 50% discount. The public can even pay their penalties in instalments. lf you don’t pay in time, a courtesy letter will be sent to you, which you’ll also have to pay for.
If you fail to pay a fine after receiving a courtesy letter, you’ll be sent an enforcement order and then a warrant of execution, which means the sheriff can sell your moveable property.
The new system will take into consideration that someone else may have been driving your car when tickets were issued but you must provide information to the satisfaction of the agency that you weren’t the driver. You’ll need to provide the full name, acceptable identification, residential and postal addresses, and telephone numbers of the relevant person. Should the identified infringer fail to respond in the prescribed manner within 32 days, the original infringement notice will be reinstated and you will become liable to pay both the penalty and the prescribed fee of the courtesy letter that will be issued.
Getting rid of demerit points
Paying fines is compulsory but it won’t take away the demerit points you’ve accumulated. But for every three months that you don’t break any rules, one point will be deducted from your record, even when your licence has been suspended.
For example, if you have 14 points on your driving licence and it has been suspended, you’ll be allowed to drive again after six months. Points will continue to be reduced by one point every three months, provided no further violations are committed. If your driving licence is suspended three times it’ll be cancelled. After sitting out a long disqualification period determined by a judge, you’ll have to redo your learner’s and your driving licence.