Traversing South African roads on a daily basis is already challenging – from avoiding potholes to unruly drivers, it’s an anxiety-inducing experience at the best of times. However, criminal syndicates are adding to the many risks motorists face as so-called highway gangs resort to placing rocks and, more recently, spikes (sometimes disguised in plastic bags, etc.) on the road. With the aim of damaging a vehicle to force the driver to pull over, then attacking the unsuspecting and stranded motorist and robbing them of their valuables, these incidents can easily result in something far more serious than simply a broken window or slashed tyres. It can lead to serious injury and, in some tragic instances, death.
While police have intensified patrols in some suspected hotspots where objects are placed on the road or rocks are thrown from bridges, it’s still largely the responsibility of the driver to try and avoid falling victim to these highway gangs. Here are a few tips on staying safe and what to do should you find yourself on the side of the road.
ROAD SAFETY: BASIC TIPS
- Always be vigilant and keep an eye out for any persons on bridges or embankments.
- Keep your eyes on the road and look for any objects in the road that could pose a danger. Should you see anything suspicious, reduce your speed and change lanes in a safe manner.
- If you have passengers in the car, ask them to also be alert.
- Also, keep an eye on the vehicles around you as their actions could serve as an early warning of a possible obstruction in the road ahead.
- Most attacks happen at night when roads are quieter and visibility is limited. Try and avoid driving at night as much as possible.
- If possible, avoid areas known for being hotspots.
- Should you spot any suspicious activity or items on the road, continue driving but report it to the police as soon as you can. Do not pull over to remove the object from the road.
- Stick to the speed limit and, in areas known for spike and rock-throwing incidents, slow down. This could give you just enough time to spot the object in the road and safely avoid the danger.
- If you drive over a spike or other damaging objects, remain calm and avoid stopping if at all possible. Instead, reduce your speed, turn on your hazards and slowly make your way to a safe area. If this means having to drive on your wheel rim, do so slowly.
- If you have no choice but to pull over, try to at least get to an area where there’s a bit more light. Also, avoid stopping near bridges.
- Alert your loved ones and contact police and emergency support services immediately. Be sure to share your location with loved ones and keep them updated until help arrives.
- Do not get out of your car to assess the damage unless you are absolutely confident it’s safe to do so.
- If you or the occupants in the vehicle sustained any injuries, assess the seriousness of the injuries and provide basic first aid.
Sources: AA | SAPS