Roadblocks are an essential part of ensuring the safety of all South African road users, yet many motorists find them intimidating. Knowing your legal rights will help you navigate a roadblock with confidence and ease.
What rights do officials have?
Police and traffic officers have the power to arrest a driver without a warrant if a driver is deliberately blocking the road, doesn’t have a valid driver’s license, has been seen driving recklessly, or is suspected of committing – or about to commit – a crime. Officers also have the right to arrest any driver they believe to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is unfit to drive. They also have the right to detain a driver if he or she resists a breathalyser test and the blood alcohol level is found to be over the legal limit of 0.05g per 100ml.
The law also gives uniformed traffic officers the right to stop any motorist for a routine check, a traffic offence, or if they suspect that the vehicle may be stolen. What’s more, her or she may check the inside and the outside of the vehicle and request personal information such as the names and addresses of all passengers. Police may also stop drivers from continuing on their route if his or her vehicle is considered unroadworthy and poses a risk to other road users.
How to behave at a roadblock
It always helps to be polite to the officer on duty at a roadblock and have your driver’s license ready. This not only saves time but also shows co-operation. Be mindful too that verbally abusing an officer, such as making racial slurs, hate speech or taking actions that prevent the officer from doing his or her job, could result in your being arrested.
What rights do drivers have?
Drivers have the right to see the roadblock’s certificate of authentication, which must be signed by either the National or Provincial Police Commissioner. It is also important to know that you may not be arrested for unpaid traffic fines. The only circumstance in which an official can make an arrest is if a warrant has been issued against the driver and the officer can produce a valid copy of the document.
If you feel that an official is abusing their authority, gather as much evidence as you can. You are legally within your rights to take a photo or video and an officer may not seize your equipment or force you to delete any footage. Just as the police have a right to ensure safety on the roads, you have the right to fair treatment too.