KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Knowing your rights when it comes to paying fines is crucial. Image: iStock
Cape Town - Most drivers are familiar with that sinking feeling that arises as a result of an unwelcomed siren, signalling a pending fine or reprimand from the authorities.
And though many try to stay within the bounds of the law when out on the open road, the reality is simply that many aren’t aware of when they are breaking road rules, something that can result in hefty penalties and making roads unsafe.
Most motorists still know precious little about traffic fines, going obliviously about their business until it’s too late. Many are also in the dark when it comes to understanding their rights in the event of a fine and it’s this information that could end up saving you plenty over time.
So what should you do the next time you’re pulled over or receive that tell-tale envelope in the mail? MiWay's Nthabiseng Moloi shares a few key points to consider next time you receive a ‘love note’ from the authorities:
1. Understand the transgression
Before you pay your fine, it’s important that you understand exactly what you’ve been penalised for, ensuring that the charge is legitimate.
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We all know that driving over the speed limit or without a driving licence can incur penalties, but did you know that failure to comply with an officer’s instructions or taking part in any type of road sport without prior permission can also result in harsh fines? It’s vital that you familiarise yourself with the rules of the road to ensure you understand your rights and are able to avoid being fined in the first place.
2. Check the fine print
The world of traffic fines is a complicated one governed by many unexpected laws and regulations, the understanding of which could result in either a reduced or invalidated fine. For instance, should you be caught speeding on camera, you’ll need to receive notice of the offense within 30 days of the event in question or the fine will be deemed unlawful and invalid.
READ: New road rules for SA: What's going on with the speed limit?
It’s also worth noting that should you pay your fine within 32 days of receiving it, you’ll get a 50% discount on the fine charge, which is a much easier way to save money than disputing the penalty. You’ll also want to check what type of notice you’ve received; a section 56 notice allows 30 days for payment, whereas a section 341 notice offers you three months to pay.
3. Know your rights
Fear of legal ramifications can result in people simply handing over the requested funds without question, but it’s important to understand that you are sometimes well within your rights to deny payment.
For instance, you have the right to request a photo of your vehicle in the event of a traffic fine, which needs to depict your car in a clear and indisputable manner. Additionally, should there be another car in the image, you have the right to dispute the fine’s validity.
READ: What Gauteng's fine-scrapping ruling means for motorists
It’s also important to know that you’re not obliged to pay outstanding traffic fines at roadblocks, despite what some suggest. However, should a warrant have been issued for your arrest as a result of unpaid fines, you might indeed find yourself behind bars.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that a fine that comes along with the implication of any type of bribe or threat is not valid under South African law.
4. Stand up for your rights
Should you feel that you’ve been unfairly issued with a traffic fine, there are options available to you to either get it reduced or written off via a dispute process.
You can either opt to appear in court, at which point you’ll be asked to explain the reasons why you shouldn’t pay the fine or apply to the AARTO to pay your fine in instalments, although in such instances you’ll no longer be able to have it reduced.
Ultimately, information is your critical ally when it comes to staying on the right side of the law, so make sure to stay up to date with traffic laws and regulations - it could make an enormous difference to your financial standing in the long run.