What to do when stopped at a roadblock
Being pulled over can be quite intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Roadblocks are an inevitable part of being a motorist. However, many South African motorists are fearful of being pulled over - even though they haven’t broken the law. Knowing your rights and responsibilities during a roadblock or routine check can help you to stay calm and act appropriately.
Suzuki shares some tips on how to respond and what not to do.
Things to remember during a roadblock:
An officer in uniform has the right to stop any vehicle;
Demanding to know why an officer has pulled you over will only end badly. We repeat that any officer in uniform can stop and search any car on the road;
You do have the right to take down the officer’s details if you feel that your rights have been violated;
You may not refuse a breathalyser or blood test - driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in South Africa.
“A traffic officer, appointed as a peace officer in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 has the same powers as a police officer. He may therefore request a doctor or registered nurse to draw blood,” says Arrive Alive, a national road safety campaign run by the South African police and traffic officials.
The legal bloodalcohol limit is 0,05g/100ml but the legal breath-alcohol limit is 0,24mg/ 1 000ml of breath. During clinical trials, all participants (regardless of gender) exceeded the limit after two beers. Some people can even exceed the limit after a single drink, depending on the drink and body type. With this in mind, it is never worth it to get behind the wheel of your car after even one drink. A single drink will still affect your reaction time and driving ability. If you’re planning a night out, it’s much safer to arrange a designated sober driver, or take a taxi.
How to present your firearm:
If you have a firearm in your vehicle, you need to ensure that you present it in a nonconfrontational, peaceful manner. Here are some tips to help you handle the situation calmly:
Make sure that you have your firearm licence and competency certificate with you at all times;
You will need to verbally confirm your ID number and if you can remember it, your gun’s serial number;
You will need to tell the officer exactly where you keep the gun in the car;
If the officer requests to see the firearm, allow them to open and inspect your car;
If you carry the gun on your person, ask for permission to reach for it;
Answer all questions calmly;
Do not point the gun at anyone, or make any jerky or erratic movements. Do everything slowly, with confidence and showing respect;
Do not, under any circumstances, discharge the weapon.
If your car is unroadworthy:
If your car is deemed unroadworthy, officers can prevent you from driving any further and impound the vehicle. A vehicle is deemed unroadworthy if it’s a danger to the driver and other motorists on the road. Common problems that will cause your car to be declared unroadworthy include:
Any lights that are damaged or not fully functional;
Faulty steering mechanism, windscreen wipers or indicators;
Worn, bald or damaged tyres (tread that is 1,6mm or less);
Missing reflector lights;
Illegal vehicle modifications.
Behaviour towards an officer:
Always be polite and respectful. Don’t antagonise an officer by being rude, cheeky or non-compliant. Don’t display any physical signs of violence (like pushing the officer). You can’t be arrested for being just plain rude, but rudeness can quickly escalate into an argument or verbal abuse.
Swearing, offensive hand gestures and racial slurs are all considered verbal abuse which could lead to arrest. An officer must provide you with their badge and vehicle number upon request. If you feel intimidated, or are worried that your rights are being violated, you need to take down the officer’s badge number and vehicle registration.
No matter what an officer says, you are within your right to film any interaction with a South African police officer as evidence. You may not be forced to delete the file. Under the SAPS Standing Order 156, an officer may not stop you from taking a photograph or videoing them and may not seize, damage or delete the footage.
How not to behave:
“If you intentionally and unlawfully violate the dignity of an officer, you could be taken into custody. For example, any racial slurs, hate speech or actions that prevent the officer from doing their job could land you in hot water,” said advocate Jackie Nagtegaal in an interview with Wheels24. The worst thing you can do when you’ve been pulled over, is to antagonise the officers.
When can a motorist be arrested?
If you have outstanding traffic fines, you can be issued with a warrant of arrest. In such a case, officers at a roadblock can and have to arrest you. However, you’re entitled to ask to see a copy of the warrant of arrest. You can not be detained while they go and fetch one - this is an unlawful arrest. They will need to have the warrant with them at the time of the arrest. Do not resist arrest. Peace officers like the metro police are allowed to forcefully effect an arrest if you do not cooperate.
Arrive Alive provides more information on their website www.arrivealive.co.za.