Your rights and duties on the road

26 Jan 2021

Know your rights and obligations when you are stopped by a traffic officer

Everything you need to know about roadblocks and when you are being pulled over on the road by a traffic officer. Your rights and responsibilities as a motorist are explained to you.

Your Rights and Duties on the Road

Your rights and duties on the road. We cover:

  • Your rights and duties when stopped by a traffic officer or at a roadblock
  • Latest on AARTO (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences)
  • Latest on e -Tolls
  • Offences and fines

Your rights and duties when stopped at a roadblock or pulled over by an officer (“roadside check”)

Law enforcement officials may:
  • Search you and/or your property without a warrant at a roadblock if the police can show good cause
  • Search you and/or your property at a roadside check without a warrant if you consent to a search or they have reasonable grounds to search
  • Seize any “contraband” or evidence without a warrant at a roadblock or a roadside check
  • Issue a fine in respect of the vehicle or the driver’s fitness
  • Issue a notice to discontinue use of a motor vehicle if it is suspected of being unroadworthy, or impound it if it is clearly unroadworthy
  • Arrest any person who has been or is reasonably suspected of being involved in an offence without obtaining a warrant of arrest
  • Arrest any person against whom a warrant of arrest has been issued by a Court
  • Arrest any person who commits any offence in the officer’s presence
  • Inform you of your outstanding traffic fines
Law enforcement officials may not:
  • Physically or verbally abuse you or damage your property
  • Search you or your property at a roadblock unless there are reasonable grounds or you consent to the search
  • Threaten to arrest you
  • Force you to pay outstanding traffic fines
  • Discontinue or impound your vehicle without reasonable grounds
You may:
  • Demand to see an officer’s certificate of appointment
  • Demand to see the written authorisation of a roadblock
  • Refuse to submit to a search at a roadside check, unless there are reasonable grounds for such search
You may not:
  • Refuse to provide a breath alcohol or blood sample
  • Resist arrest
  • Offer or pay a bribe

Finally, be aware that probably the worst thing you can say to a law enforcement official is “I know my rights!” – in an arrogant or aggressive tone, or to tell them how to do their job. This may trigger aggressive and even abusive behaviour on the part of the officer. This may lead to allegations and counter-allegations and eventually land up in court.

Traffic offences and fines

The table below shows a sample of the more common traffic offences and their respective fines. There are of course many more offences and for the full list please visit:
AARTO Road Traffic Penalties

Violation Fine Pts
Licence disc not displayed R 500 1
Motor vehicle not licensed R 1 000 3
Motor vehicle displaying only one number plate R 500 2
Driver not licensed R 1 250 4
Driver does not have a licence with him in vehicle R 500 1
Operating a motor vehicle without a roadworthy certificate R 1 000 3
The operator did not exercise proper control driver R 1 250 4
Disobeying stop sign or robot with non-RWC vehicle R 500 1
Exceeding the speed limit by:    
11 km/h to 15 km/h R 250 0
16 km/h to 20 km/h R 500 1
21 km/h to 25 km/h R 750 2
26 km/h to 30 km/h R1 000 3
31 km/h to 35 km/h R1 250 4
36 km/h to 40 km/h R1 500 5
Above 40 km/h Court 6

AARTO delayed due to COVID-19

The rollout of AARTO (The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act, 1998) has been delayed due to the coronavirus. It was meant to take effect by mid-2020.

A spokesman of The Department of Transport states: “The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak has severely compromised the capacity of the RTIA (“Road Traffic Infringement Agency”), which is responsible for the rollout of AARTO. For this reason, RTIA is in no position at this stage, to successfully conduct the national rollout of AARTO. The situation will be reviewed in due course”

The Demerit system – The government, via AARTO, hopes to improve driving on the country’s roads. The Act will do this through the introduction of a new demerit system for South African drivers. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, points will be allocated to the driver. If a driver collects a certain number of points, their drivers’ licence will be suspended and ultimately cancelled.

E-TOLLS Update: The impact of COVID-19

SANRAL (The South African National Roads Agency) says its revenue through toll roads dropped over R640 million due to the national lockdown. The lockdown period resulted in fewer cars on the highways, which meant fewer motorists to pay tolls.

More than six years after the introduction of e-tolling, there is still no agreement about the future of the system. SANRAL estimated that only 20% of motorists paid their bills.

The future of e-tolling is now at Cabinet level and it is not yet clear when this 6-year-long battle will finally be resolved.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Contact us if you have any questions regarding your rights and duties on the road.

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Michael Visser

Michael Visser is a legal advisor at Legal&Tax. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) Law and LLB from The University of Pretoria. Read more about Michael Visser


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