South Africa’s demerit system has been in the works for years and was scheduled to come into effect in June 2020. Due to the pandemic, it was postponed, and now the official roll-out date is set for 1 July 2021.

Based on systems similar to those in the United Kingdom and Australia, the system aims to modify driver behaviour and streamline the process of fining bad driving.

“Our criminal system is not working for bulk charge of traffic offenders. The existing system is not designed to manage 400 or 500 per court roll, per day,” says transport law expert Alta Swanepoel, “AARTO can be a very effective system and is designed to handle charging people in large volumes.”

Here’s everything you need to know before the demerit system comes into effect next month.

What is the demerit point system?

Every South African driver will start off with zero points on their driving licence, and for every infringement you will gain points according to the severity of your offence.

You could be fined anywhere between 1 point (for example, for operating a vehicle with a damaged light) and up to 6 points (for example, for failing to stop your vehicle for a traffic officer).

The aim of the game is to keep your points as low as possible, because once you reach 15 points you will be disqualified from operating a vehicle for a specified amount of time.

Is being disqualified the same as losing my driver’s licence?

Being disqualified is like having your driver’s licence suspended, so it’s not as permanent as losing your licence.

While you’re disqualified, you will be required to hand over your driver’s licence, so any driving you may do in this period is automatically illegal as you’ll be driving with no licence – which will then cost you a further four points if you’re caught.

If you are disqualified three times, your driver’s licence will be cancelled, and you’ll be required to reapply for it (including applying for a new learner’s licence and redoing your driving test).

How likely is it that I’ll lose my licence?

Honestly? Pretty unlikely.

To become disqualified, you’ll need to reach 15 points – and most good drivers who follow the rules of the road won’t reach anywhere near that.

Furthermore, your points are only valid for three months, so you’d have to rack up a ton of offences in a short period of time to reach the threshold.

The Managing Director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, points out the people most at risk of are those who drive for a living, and it will become vital for businesses to keep track of the points allocated to each driver.

He says, ““If an employee’s license is suspended as a result of fines obtained in their work as well personal capacity, yet they continue to drive for your company, the company can also be held responsible for this.”

The points breakdown for various offences

1 Demerit point

  • Driving an unregistered vehicle
  • Driving an unlicensed vehicle
  • Driving a vehicle with licence plate not visible
  • Driving while holding and using a cell phone
  • Skipping a stop sign (light vehicles)
  • Skipping a red light (light vehicles)
  • Failing to yield to a pedestrian
  • Overtaking across a barrier line (light vehicles)

2 Demerit points

  • Skipping a stop sign (buses, trucks)
  • Skipping a red light (buses, trucks)
  • Overtaking across a barrier line (buses, trucks)
  • Driving 81-85km/h in a 60km/h zone
  • Driving 121-125km/h in a 100km/h zone
  • 141-145km/h in a 120km/h zone

3 Demerit points

  • Driving 106-110km/h in an 80km/h zone

4 Demerit points

  • Driving without a driving licence
  • Driving 131-135km/h in a 100km/h zone
  • 151-155km/h in a 120km/h zone

5 Demerit points

  • Overloading a vehicle with max 56,000kg combination mass by 12-13.99%

6 Demerit points

  • Driving under influence of an intoxicating substance
  • Driving 100km/h+ in a 60km/h zone
  • Driving 120km/h+ in an 80km/h zone
  • Driving 140km/h+ in a 100km/h zone
  • Driving 160km/h+ in a 120km/h zone


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