Know Your Rights When You Are Told To Stop By The Police
06 November 2013:
Can The New Protocol Make Drivers Feel Safer?
While the law is very clear about it being a criminal offence to not stop for police or traffic officials, it is also essential that you feel safe when doing so. Based on this, the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) supports the latest announcement by the Justice Project SA and the Road Traffic Management Cooperation (RTMC) in issuing a standard protocol on what you should do if blue light vehicles attempt to flag you down, especially at night.
Over the past few years there have been several attempts to communicate about the proper procedures to the public, but unfortunately these have been both unclear and sporadic.
This new protocol has already attracted media attention, which will hopefully assist in getting the message out.
While the protocol seems sound, what is critical to its success is buy-in from law enforcement agencies. Without the co-operation of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and traffic officials, it will not be sustainable. It could also create a situation where motorists feel more threatened. The main points of the new protocol when being flagged by police are:
- Slow down to 40km/h and turn your hazard lights on
- Place your right arm out the window and gesture for the vehicle to follow you
- Proceed to the nearest police or petrol station – a well-lit and safe area
- Call 10111 and try to get the registration number of the car following you
- Inform the operator that you are being flagged down by a police officer and are stopping at a safe place
- When you arrive at the police or petrol station, remain in the vehicle until instructed otherwise by an officer
It is important to remember when using this protocol in a real-life situation to seem as unthreatening as possible. Should the police believe you to be responding to their wishes and not fleeing, there should be no cause for concern.
However, if the police think you pose a threat or seem to be attempting to flee, the situation could unravel. Central to the circumstances is to always remain calm. It is potentially a highly stressful situation, so if you present a calm exterior, the officials will likely respond in kind.