On the radar: Demerit system and zero-limit drunk driving laws

We’ve written before about the incoming demerit system, but it felt like it was something we only really needed to worry about in our distant future. Well, the time is almost here. The demerit system is due to be implemented in three phases, starting on 1 July 2021. Added to that, government will also introduce a new 0% legal blood alcohol limit.

Once the demerit system is implemented, drivers will pay penalties and get points allocated to their license when a traffic infringement is committed. The new system will be rolled out in three phases :

  • Phase 1: Points will be allocated for speeding, dangerous overtaking, failing to stop at traffic lights and stop signs, and other hazardous driving behaviour. Points will also be allocated for vehicles that are not road worthy and driving without a valid driving license or driving permit.
  • Phase 2: The second phase will be introduced after the first phase is evaluated by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). The roll out of this phase is focused on operational laws and includes points being allocated for cross border road transport permits and operating licences in terms of the national land transport legislation. Expired car license and license cards will also be penalised in phase two. 
  • Phase 3: Phase 3 is associated with infringements like not updating addresses of vehicle users and operating licence holders. All infringements picked up on cameras or parking-related offences will be penalised, but in the case of corporates, the corporate owner will be penalised unless the drivers have been registered. 

According to this Business Tech article, the points system works as follows:

  • Everyone starts with zero points, and the maximum number of points you can have is 12. If you get more than 12 points, you will not be allowed to drive for a certain period of time. You get three-months’ suspension for every point over 12, and your driving licence card must be handed in for this period. For example, if you have 15 points, your license will be suspended for nine months.
  • If you commit an offence, you will pay a penalty and you will get a point for the infringement. Most offences have one point associated with them. However, there are some instances when you can get as many as six points for an infringement. For example, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving faster than 140/km per hour in a 100km zone, both receive 6 demerit points.
  • If you drive for three months and you do not receive any demerit points, one of your previous demerit points (if you have any) will be deducted.
  • You get three chances. After your license has been suspended, or you have been disqualified as a driver three times, your driving license will be cancelled. You will have to apply for a new driver’s license once the disqualification period is over. 

The new drunk driving law, due to be implemented in June this year, allows for zero tolerance for driving drunk. Currently the law allows for a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, but from June onwards, it is illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system. You must be 100% sober.

In a recent statement, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said the new demerit system will be integral in the enforcement of this new law. Added to that, all traffic officers will be required to wear body cameras at all time. This will help discourage any corruption that might occur. It will be a punishable offence for traffic officers to remove the body camera.

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