Happy woman driving

Fines SA – Making South African Roads Safer

With an exceptionally high incidence of road accidents and fatalities, South Africa is a dangerous place to drive in. The government has made several attempts to clamp down on traffic offenders, for example through the proposed AARTO Demerit system. However, many challenges have been identified in administering and policing it, if implemented. Until then, the more than 250 municipalities issue fines for traffic offences, but only a small percentage of motorists pay their fines. And it’s not just about paying fines; it’s about being held to account for poor driving habits. Barry Berman, CEO of Fines SA, says their platform is designed to achieve this.

Barry Berman CEO Fines SAIn 1994, Barry Berman started a company in Cape Town called Mekaish Vehicle Administration, which issued personalised number plates for motorists nationwide via its highly popular website, www.plates.co.za. The company’s services expanded to include license renewals, registrations, number transfers and number plate manufacturing. Then Berman’s business hit a snag. At that time, municipalities were struggling to get people to pay their fines, so they decided to block motorists from being able to renew their licenses until they paid their fines. As the issuing and manufacture of number plates is linked to license registration, Berman realised that motorists’ outstanding fines were directly impacting his business. He decided to investigate the challenges that the municipalities were experiencing in recouping money from fines, and this led him to develop a platform that would become a triple-win for everyone.

Mekaish became Fines SA, which was born after Berman approached the municipalities and studied the existing system only to discover that, with over 250 municipalities using a fragmented system, and multiple service providers on tender to do some of the back-end work for only 80% of the municipalities, it just wasn’t working. Berman set out to build a system that would connect to every municipality and their service providers, so that he could then pull data from all of them to provide a national, comprehensive overview of all outstanding fines.

Fines SA doesn’t only benefit municipalities, but individual motorists as well as businesses that employ drivers and companies that operate vehicle fleets. When registering on the Fines SA website, they are able to see what fines have been issued to them across all regions of South Africa. Those who only check the AARTO site will see fines issued in Joburg and Tshwane only, and if they travel and incur fines in other municipalities, they may not even know about it.

There are two traffic systems in SA – AARTO (for Joburg and Tshwane only, until the other municipalities are added later), although it’s not officially up and running; and then the existing government system for the rest of the country. Berman says, “Systems like AARTO work well in other countries, but they need to be policed.” With the demerit system, traffic offenders incur demerit points for every offense, and after 15 points, they lose their license. It takes three months per point to get it back, and during that time, they are not permitted to drive at all.

A major problem in South Africa now is that motorists most often don’t even receive their infringement notices, so they don’t know they have them. “That’s why our system is so effective,” says Berman. “Everything is electronic and linked across every region. We send statements every month, so motorists and businesses always know what fines they have. If AARTO is implemented, we will also add demerit points onto the statements.”

The other problem with the current system is that if someone rents a car and gets a fine, it will be redirected to their name, and if it was issued in another municipality, they may not even know about the fine. Also, if motorists have incurred more than 15 demerit points but are not aware of it, they could arrive at the airport and try to book a car, but be refused because they have no points left, which means they’re not permitted to drive.

Using Fines SA’s system is simple: motorists can register using their ID number (for individuals) or the Business Registration Number (BRN) number for companies – this is the number issued by Enatis for companies who own vehicles. Fines SA then retrieves the data and issues a quote detailing the outstanding fines, minus applicable discounts. Individuals and businesses can then pay using their easy payment systems, which include a finance option via Mobicred, as well as Zapper, SnapScan for QR Code payments, debit or credit cards, and EFTs. Discounts are applicable on at least 80% of fines issued. Fines SA offers up to 20% discount on fines above R300, and users don’t pay any admin, service or ‘convenience’ fees.

Companies with fleets often try to redirect fines to their drivers to get the fines taken off the company name, but these fines are never paid. “We advise companies to pay the fines and deduct the amount from the drivers’ salaries,” says Berman. “Only when drivers have money deducted from their hard-earned salaries do they improve their driving. So, not only are the fines paid, but there is less damage to company vehicles, and obviously, it’s safer for all drivers on the road”.

The knock-on effect of motorists losing their licenses is significant. Individuals are unable to do the simplest daily tasks, and if company drivers cannot legally drive, they could lose their jobs because the company would have to replace them to continue the business. In addition, people who have an accident after losing their license may not be paid out by insurance companies.

This can all be avoided by registering with Fines SA. “We are very responsive and help resolve whatever queries motorists have,” says Berman. “Trying to track fines and resolve queries at the municipality is difficult and time-consuming. People have to wait for fines to arrive by post, so they never have all the data; but we are able to retrieve all data in real time, so they don’t need to. It’s also not easy trying to pay a fine to AARTO, and motorists probably won’t get a discount if it’s after the 32-day period.”

With over 1.5 million users, over 10 000 fleets, 25 years in vehicle administration, and over 2 million vehicles under management, Fines SA provides a user-friendly platform that benefits individuals and businesses as well as municipalities. The more people who register on the site, the greater the benefit for everyone. The system holds poor drivers to account, helps generally law-abiding motorists to pay their fines easily, helps municipalities to recoup the money owed to them, saves millions annually for drivers, and most importantly, reduces the number of accidents and road fatalities, ultimately making South Africa a safer place to drive in.

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  2. There’s nothing as important as a safe road and we need more of that here in South h Africa

    • Lynne Huysamen

      We really do Sandiso – I recently posted a rant on Facebook about a company vehicle aggressively tailgating me while driving my kids to school… its scary how dangerous it can be taking a short trip in the car.

  3. Good evening,

    Your company only collects money, that’s fine but the queries are directed to the traffic department who is either not answering the phone or does not react to e-mails.
    So this is a catch 21 situation, but your system carries on with the administration and implements penalties admin costs, etc. S.A, Fines does exactly the same as Eskom and debt collectors companies. There is no chance to discuss the fines. We must just believe the corrupt officers that we have a fine. Especially now the government needs money badly.
    Most of the time we discover that we have fine via SAFines with no way of proof. Anybody can take a photo
    as happened to my wife. She stopped at the stop street and the photo was taken after she drove on. There was no stopstreet sign on the road.

    Lukas Snider

    • Lynne Huysamen

      Hi Lukas – I recommend that you send your feedback directly to SA Fines rather than here as this is a post about SA Fines, my company is not SA Fines. I do know that if you have a problem with a fine you do have options to go to court on the date on the fine, I believe there is also a way to see a magistrate about the fine before the court date but I have never done either of those myself. I know people that have done this and either had the fines reduced or removed.

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