The Transport Portfolio Committee has rejected government proposals to introduce a new type of driving license in South Africa, a so-called ‘provisional licence’, and to reduce the alcohol limit for drivers to zero.
In its deliberations on the National Road Traffic Amendment Act on Friday (September 16), the committee made it clear that amendments creating scope for the permit and alcohol changes were rejected and removed from the latest draft of the bill.
The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill was enacted in October 2020 to address gaps and loopholes in the National Road Traffic Act No. 93 of 1996.
The bill concerns, among other things, the registration of driving schools, the registration of persons who manufacture, supply or sell number plates, the regulation of weighbridges and driver intoxication.
The Department of Transport introduced the bill after a series of fake driving schools operating as money-making schemes with little interest in teaching the traffic rules. Changes to the alcohol laws pushed to tackle drunk driving, causing many road deaths in South Africa.
The final bills will now be published and discussed by MPs.
A provisional permit was first proposed in 2020, with very little detail as to what it would entail.
The proposed changes, under the bill, would have added “provisional driver’s license” to Articles 13 and 14 of the National Road Traffic Act, giving the government leeway to introduce the driver’s license and have it governed by the same laws as driving and learning licenses. in the country.
However, the committee rejected the amendments because the actual permit does not exist.
The government has previously suggested introducing a new tiered licensing system for the country, and legal experts at the time said the provisional license was likely part of this plan.
An explanation of the provisional permits was already proposed in 2014 as part of the proposed amendment to the National Road Traffic Act.
Under this proposal, individuals who pass their theory test would not initially be given a full driving licence, but would instead be given a provisional driving license and be subject to restrictions in their driving practice for a period of time until they obtain a full licence.
Graduated driving license systems are designed to progressively provide new motor vehicle drivers with driving experience and skills in low-risk environments.
There are usually three steps or phases to help new drivers succeed. Drivers begin by obtaining a learner license and progress to a provisional driver’s license followed by the receipt of a full driver’s license.
Graduated driver’s licenses generally restrict nighttime, highway and unsupervised driving during the initial phase, but lift these restrictions with time and further testing of the individual, eventually ending up with a full driver’s license.
South Africa’s licensing system is currently time-based, with a person being given two years to get their driver’s license after receiving a learning driver’s license.
The mention of a “provisional permit” has been removed from the latest draft of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill.
No alcohol changes
Another controversial amendment in the bill concerned the accepted concentration of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream. The amendments proposed to lower this from 0.05 grams per 100 milliliters of blood to zero.
The committee rejected the amendment, arguing that some drugs, foods and religious practices would leave traces of alcohol in the system, which could lead to false positive arrests. Public reactions also led to the rejection.
As a result of the rejection, the amendment proposal returns to the current statutory conditions: 0.05 grams per 100 milliliters for ordinary drivers and 0.02 grams per 100 milliliters for professional drivers.
It was argued that police visibility and stronger enforcement of current laws would be more effective in combating alcohol-related road deaths.
Read: Renewed call for ‘zero tolerance’ drink-driving laws in South Africa