Understanding your blue light rights
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By: Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay Head of Marketing & Brand
In a country understandably on edge in light of soaring crime statistics, the sight of flashing lights in the rear view mirror can often be cause for concern. Given the spate of recent attacks using blue lights to deter motorists, the arrival of government, emergency and police vehicles on the road tends to incur panic and often results in reckless and irresponsible behaviour.
In reality, most flashing lights do in fact belong to legitimate official vehicles, many of whom are simply doing their job and tending to emergency situations. However, it’s wise to exercise caution and vital that motorists understand both official protocols and their individual rights in any given scenario.
So when next you spot those tell-tale flashing lights in the distance, here are a few key pointers to bear in mind:
Lights have right of way
Any vehicle displaying a red or blue light (or a combination thereof), has absolute right of way (when it’s safe to do so) in accordance with the National Road Traffic Act. Whether or not you doubt the legitimacy of the vehicle in question, you are required to give way as best as possible. In light traffic situations, this can simply be achieved by pulling over, but in high-congestion scenarios, your best bet is to nudge your car as far over to the verge as possible, without causing any danger to other motorists.
Remember that it’s not for drivers to decide whether or not a vehicle is a legitimate government or emergency entity. Should you feel that said vehicle is acting outside its remit, your best bet is to jot down the number plate and report the car to the relevant authorities.
Safety is paramount
Should you be approached by a police vehicle attempting to pull you over, it’s in your interest to exercise due caution, and to remember that you are not legally obliged to pull over should you feel in any way unsure of the situation.
The ‘Blue Light Protocol’ – a system introduced in 2013 to mitigate criminal incidents – affords motorists the option to proceed to a police station or public space before stopping. In instances where you are requested to pull over and you feel unsafe for any reason, it’s important to remain calm, and slow down and activate your hazard lights so as to acknowledge police presence.
Thereafter, extend your arm outside the vehicle to indicate that you wish the police to follow you, and continue on at no more than 40km/h until you reach either a station or a well-lit filling station complete with CCTV surveillance.
Upon arrival at a police station, hoot until an officer comes to assist, and explain that you felt unsafe, ensuring you remain polite and co-operative at all times. Remember not to drive to your home or that of a friend, as you could be putting yourself and others in danger should the supposed police turn out to be criminals.
Ultimately, no vehicle has the right to force you off the road, but it’s important to exercise discretion, courtesy and regard for safety in all scenarios. By remaining calm and following the rules of the road, you should be able to ensure that you and your fellow drivers emerge unscathed.
Date Posted: 2017-09-07
Posted By: MiWay Insurance Limited
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