The recent launch of the Tshwane pilot scheme of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Offences Act has not been without some teething problems, reports the Road Traffic Management Corporation, in response to recent press articles.
Despite adequate preparation on the part of the RTMC in readiness for the launch in July, which was restricted geographically to Tshwane and only to certain sections of the Act, one of the major hindrances to the overall efficiency of Tshwane’s implementation was the delay by Telkom to install a fixed data line. A 3G wireless system has been put in place temporarily, but this has significantly slowed down the processing of violation notices. In addition, communication between various systems used at national and municipal level and with service providers such as SA Post Office and FNB, have hampered the smooth application of AARTO in the region.
Added to technical challenges, human nature has also played its part in complicating matters, as despite an extensive information campaign through print and electronic media and through the distribution of literature through post boxes, at public libraries and civic centres as well as shopping malls, the public has mis-applied the publicised 50% discount on AARTO issued infringement notices, and has taken it upon itself in many cases to apply the discount to old fines issued under the previous system.
It will naturally take some time for the public to adjust to the change over and to learn the terminology which AARTO employs and which differentiates the Act from the previous Criminal Procedures Act. However, operationally deployed metro police officers of the TMPD were fully trained prior to the launch and are fully conversant in the language and procedures of AARTO.
AARTO has also prematurely become synonymous with the points demerit system, although this element of the Act was never part of the pilot phase project. Nor will it be in the forthcoming Johannesburg roll out – demerit points will only come into play when AARTO rolls out nationally in order not to prejudice negatively the drivers of Gauteng.
Up to the end of October, just under 30 000 infringement notices had been served on drivers in Tshwane, but due to the nature of the new system which offers options for responding to infringement notices in a series of 32 day cycles, in can take up to 100-120 days for all of an infringer’s options to be exhausted. For this reason we have not yet seen the conclusion of many of the notices and therefore the success or failure of the pilot cannot be adjudged on this basis. To enable a proper assessment of the success or failure of AARTO, time must be allowed for a reasonable volume of infringement notices to reach the different levels in the process.
One of the key successes, however, of the pilot can be measured in the reduction in the number of court cases dealing with less serious traffic violations. Following the introduction of AARTO, the number of infringers who have elected to be tried in court has reduced substantially. The number of summonses issued in accordance with the AARTO legislation has also reduced, as the AARTO system, as its name suggests, promotes administrative adjudication of less serious traffic violations. Up to the end of September, only 23 infringers of 17 358 infringement notices served elected to appear in court.
Overall, given the technical challenges, AARTO has performed well since the pilot was launched in July, and Johannesburg is already preparing for its own trial period. JMPD trainers have been trained by the RTMC and they are commencing training on their operational officers. In addition, local contravention management system service providers to JMPD have started inter system testing with eNaTIS in order to be ready for the upload of speed and traffic light infringements.
With the increase in the volume of transactions set to increase significantly, stress testing of the system will be carefully monitored before proceeding with further roll out at national level, but the RTMC is confident that AARTO will be successful in its key objectives of reducing the strain on the criminal justice system, changing driver habits and as a direct result, reducing the number of traffic accidents on South Africa’s roads.
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