SA’s new driving laws: Everything you need to know

Strict new driving laws are coming into effect in South Africa soon, with the hope that they will make the nation’s roads a safer place to be. So, what exactly is changing with the new laws coming into force?

Currently, the law allows drivers to drive with a limited amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. As it stands, regular drivers cannot have more than 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – or no more than 0.02 grams per 100ml for professional drivers.

With the new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act coming into force, however, a zero-tolerance policy will be adopted for drink driving. That means that if even a tiny amount of alcohol is detected in your blood, you’ll be breaching the law. If you drive home the morning after an evening of drinking, you may still be at risk, as the body takes hours to process alcohol fully.

The new stance on drink driving means that South Africa joins a list of other countries in the world with zero-tolerance drink-driving policies. Example countries include Slovakia, Nepal, China and Brazil amongst others.

Along with the stricter drink-driving laws comes the new demerit points system, introduced by the Government in the hope it’ll reduce the number of deaths on South Africa’s road network.

Each driver starts at zero demerit points and can accumulate up to 11. When 12 or more points are reached, the driver will have their licence suspended for three months. One point is reduced for every three months you drive without an incident, and eventually back down to zero. However, repeat suspensions could see licences permanently revoked.  

How many points you’ll get depends on the seriousness of the incident. For example, driving whilst holding a cell phone will have one demerit point added to your licence, whereas speeding can yield up to six points, depending on the severity. It’s hoped the new system will help keep the most offending drivers off the road.

The demerit system was due to come into effect from June, but thanks to the Government’s coronavirus lockdown, the rollout has been delayed, with the Department of Transport saying the “Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) is in no position at this stage to successfully conduct the national rollout”. A later proposed date has yet to be confirmed.

Thanks also to the effects of the nation’s coronavirus lockdown – one of the strictest in the world – many motorists found it difficult to renew licences to keep themselves legal on the road.

To compensate, the Government has announced that any form of documentation that expired between 26 March and 31 May will be extended by 90 days, starting from 1 June. This includes (but is not limited to): driver’s licences, learner driver’s licences, and vehicle licence discs.

Drivers should be able to renew their documentation within this 90-day extension, as registering authorities, driving licence centres and driving schools all resumed service from 1 June.

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