December 2, 2020

On the road again this holiday season? This time it’s with a difference.

This holiday season will definitely be different from what South Africans are used to. As we are still being faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, it means that holiday-goers must be aware of the regulations published during the National State of Disaster. This will include that trips must be planned to ensure that time spent on the road falls outside of the relevant curfews that may be in place during the pandemic (such as where no-one is allowed to be on the road during a certain time of day). Depending on where a person is planning to go, limitations on gatherings of people must also be considered when planning a holiday.

Apart from the new regulations that must be complied with, South Africans traveling on the road to their holiday destinations must still comply with general traffic laws in respect of road safety, such as:

>     to only drive a car that is roadworthy;

 >    the driver and all passengers must wear a seatbelt;

 >    not to overtake on a solid line and, where it is allowed, only when it is safe to do so;

>     not to use a cell phone while driving, for example, texting;

 >    not to exceed the speed limits of the road; and

>     not to drive under the influence of alcohol.

A roadblock is one of the ways used to ensure road safety and compliance with traffic laws. Drivers must be aware of their rights and duties when stopped at a roadblock and the below questions will give some clarity on what the law provides.

 Must a driver stop at a roadblock?

>     A traffic officer in uniform is allowed to require a driver of any vehicle to stop such vehicle. This will also apply during a roadblock.

 > It is an offence to not stop at a roadblock when ordered or instructed by a traffic officer to do so. A driver must also stop at a roadblock if there is a sign or any other barrier indicating that s/he must stop.

Can a vehicle be searched at a roadblock?

>     As a general rule, a search warrant must first be obtained to conduct a valid search.

 >    However, this general rule does not apply in instances where a vehicle is stopped at a roadblock and a traffic officer is allowed to search a person or vehicle without a search warrant.

 >    The person whose vehicle wants to be searched at a roadblock, is allowed to request that the traffic officer shows a copy of the written authorisation to hold the roadblock.

Are traffic officers allowed to confiscate a driver's licence?

> A traffic officer may ask that a person show his/her driver's licence when being pulled over.

 >    If the traffic officer is of the opinion that the driver's licence may be used as evidence to show that traffic laws have been contravened, s/he is allowed to confiscate the driver's licence.

> A traffic officer must provide a receipt to the driver when his/her driver's licence has been confiscated.

 What if a driver does not have his/her driver's licence or a valid driver's licence?

> A driver must be in possession of a valid driver's licence when driving a vehicle. This means that the driver must have the licence on his/her person.

> If a driver does not have his/her driver's licence with him/her, it is a criminal offence.

Failure to comply with traffic laws can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment. In some instances, it may also lead to the suspension of a person's driver's licence, for example, if the driver exceeds the speed limit by 40 kilometres per hour on a freeway.

If a person wants to dispute a traffic fine, s/he can send a representation letter to the relevant traffic department where the fine was issued or the prosecutor who deals with traffic offences at the relevant court. The representation letter must provide reasons why the person believes s/he should not be held liable and what s/he requests (for example, to reduce the amount). All the circumstances of the matter, together with the reasons provided will be taken into account. If the representation was successful, the traffic fine can be reduced or cancelled. If the representation was unsuccessful, the traffic fine will remain valid.

Did you know…A vehicle can be searched at a roadblock without a search warrant.