Finding yourself at the centre of a civil unrest situation in your car is not something many people think of. However, recent events in some parts of South Africa mean it is wise to be prepared if this does happen to you.
The first, and most important action, is to avoid these areas as far as possible.
If you are aware of unrest near to you, monitor media and social media, listen to radio reports and traffic updates, and, if you have it, use the live update function on your GPS device to steer clear of these areas. The best way not to become part of any unrest situation is to not be there in the first place.
But, if you still find yourself in this situation, what should you do?
The South African Police Service advises motorists to be vigilant at all times, and, if you need to, engage with the protestors to let them know you are no threat to them, and are merely trying to pass through.
It’s important that anyone driving in an area that may be affected by unrest understands that the SAPS will most probably have blocked off a road to prevent entry. Listen to the police, and don’t put yourself in any danger by disobeying them. If you are in this situation, though, check for possible escape routes you can use, or for a police presence that you can approach for assistance,” said Captain Tsekiso Mofokeng, SAPS Gauteng Provincial spokesperson.
Other tips for motorists unexpectedly caught in the middle of an unrest situation include:
- Stay in your car as long as possible
- Unbuckle your seatbelt, and those of any passengers, to be prepared to exit your car quickly
- Keep your car moving as far as you can, whilst checking for possible escape routes
- Avoid hitting any protestors with your vehicle as this may turn the mob against you
- Do not taunt the protestors by shouting, gesticulating or hooting at them
- Remain as calm as possible to ensure you are aware of what is going on around you
- Seek assistance or safety from the police as quickly as you can. If you do not see the police, call them.
- Listen to police instructions
- If you are stuck and the situation seems to be turning, leave your car and get out of the area on foot. Remember your life is more valuable than your car or any possessions inside
- Once you are personally safe (with or without your vehicle) call family or friends to let them know where you are, and what is happening
When you are safely away from the unrest situation, you may find that your car has sustained damage. If you have insurance you may be covered.
South African Special Risks Association Limited (SARIA) is included in all comprehensive policies and covers you for “any accidental or intentional damage to your property caused by any person or group of persons taking part in a riot, strike, lock-out, public disorder or civil commotion or committing any act that has a political, social or economic aim, objective or cause or that is in protest against any state or government. This cover is limited to circumstances occurring only in South Africa.”
It is always important to be aware, to be careful, and to be safe. If you are in a situation beyond your control, get out as quickly possible, and get assistance if you need it.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
AA Public Affairs
011 799 1126 or 083 386 6954