As the holiday season approaches, thousands of South Africans are gearing up to travel to destinations across the country.  Of course, with the high traffic volumes, there is strong chance of causing or being involved in an accident. Needless to say, road fatalities in South Africa are prevalent, and roadblocks play an important role in ensuring the safety motorists and reducing carnage on our highways.

Legal vs illegal roadblocks

There are two types of legal roadblocks in South Africa.  So- called informal roadblocks are usually found on major highways and pop up randomly as a means to curb drunken driving and speeding, for example.  At these stops, a uniformed officer is legally allowed to ask for your personal information (which includes your licence).  However, South Africa’s Constitution forbids arbitrary search and seizure of your person, your property or possessions. An officer must have a valid belief that you may have been involved in a crime and that search warrant would be issued by a court if they wish to search you or your vehicle.  On the other hand, a K78 roadblock is a nationally approved exercise and officials at these stops are entitled to search you and your vehicle without a warrant.  Do note: It is illegal for an official of the opposite sex to search you.

While many road users may find the stops inconvenient for causing traffic delays, it’s vital to keep cool, calm and be cooperative when approaching a roadblock. It’s equally important to know your rights when you stopped by traffic officials. We want to shed some light on the dos and don’ts of dealing with roadblocks.

10 Things You Should Know About Roadblocks in South Africa

  • Be sure to obey any instructions or signals from officers as you approach a roadblock. Once you have stopped, gather your driver’s licence and ID, as you will likely be asked for them by an official.
  • Be polite and courteous when addressing the officer on duty- being cooperative will expedite the process.
  • You have the right to ask for the roadblock’s certificate of authentication that is signed by either the National or Provincial Police Commissioner.
  • Should your vehicle be considered unroadworthy, you could be legally prevented from continuing on your journey since you’re a danger to yourself and other motorists.
  • If you are suspected of driving under the influence and refuse to take a breathalyser test, the police can legally detain you and have your blood tested. Here what you need to know about DUIs in South Africa.
  • You can also be arrested for unpaid fines if you’ve been issued a warrant for that specific violation.
  • You have the right to ask an officer to verify their identity and request to see their badge number.
  • 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 his/her job could land you in hot water.
  • Conversely, if you believe that an official is abusing their authority or violating you with inappropriate language or conduct, you can report the officer by calling 10111. Remember to try and get a badge number to help your case.
  • You also have the right to film any incident at a roadblock- this is a great way to document any potentially unlawful behaviour from the police.

Be sure to stay in the know about road safety in South Africa