6 things you need to know when being pulled over in South Africa

With so much fake news and misconceptions surrounding traffic officials it can be difficult to determine exactly what your rights and responsibilities are as a motorist in South Africa.

More than of 3,000 motorists have been arrested on South African roads since December 1 for drunken driving, speeding and reckless road behaviour, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said on the weekend.

A total of 258 roadblocks have been carried out across the country between the period of December 1 and December 16, RTMC said.

It noted that 152,243 fines have been issued to drivers for transgressions such as not wearing wearing seat belts or talking on their cellphone while driving.

These are the 6 things you need to know when being pulled over:


Do you have to pull over?

A uniformed police officer has the right to stop any vehicle at any time, says the AA.

If you are stopped by the police, you are obliged to give your name and address, if required, and any other particulars concerning your identity.

In addition, in terms of the National Road Traffic Act, a traffic officer does have the authority to demand your driver’s license, which by law must be kept on the driver’s person or in the vehicle.

In some cases, the licence must be shown to a police officer at any police station within seven days.


Does the officer has to identify themselves?

The Criminal Procedure Act provides that an officer who cannot or will not provide an appointment certificate on demand is in violation of the Act and that any actions that he or she takes will be unlawful if such a certificate is not provided.

You may request that the officer provide identification irrespective of whether or not they are in uniform.


Are they allowed to search your vehicle?

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa forbids arbitrary search and seizure of your person, your property or possessions.

If you are stopped by law enforcement officials they must have a valid belief that you may have been involved in the commission of a crime and that a search warrant would be issued by a Magistrate or Judge if they wish to search you or your vehicle and/or seize your possessions as provided in the Criminal Procedure Act.

This applies to “random pull-overs” where you are singled out by law enforcement authorities.

It does not apply to properly constituted roadblocks where search and seizure is in fact authorised prior to the roadblock being set up.


Can you be arrested for outstanding traffic fines?

Traffic officials cannot  arrest or detain you for an outstanding traffic fine for which there is no warrant of arrest.

They may however, serve you with a summons to appear in court for an outstanding traffic fine, provided the court date is at least 14 days from the date of issuing (excluding Sundays and Public Holidays).

If a law enforcement official wants to arrest you, you have the responsibility not to resist arrest in any way.

In addition, a police officer may order that the use of a vehicle considered un-roadworthy be discontinued immediately.

They may, alternatively, specify that the vehicle may only be used for a limited period or to reach a specific destination.

Finally it is worth  noting that traffic officials are empowered to remove the clearance certificate (licence disc) from the windscreen.


Can you refuse a breathalyser or blood test?

S65 (9) of the NRTA states that “No person shall refuse that a specimen of blood, or a specimen of breath, be taken of him or her.”

If you do, not only can you be forcible held down while a needle is stuck in your arm (after you have been arrested and a docket opened) but you can also be prosecuted for refusing it.


What is the difference between blood and breath alcohol levels?

It is important to note that you can be prosecuted for both your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC)  in terms of the National Road Traffic Act,

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Section 65(2) of the NRTA states that it is an offence to drive a vehicle or occupy the driver’s seat with the engine of a motor vehicle running while a sample of your blood is not:

  • LESS THAN 0,05g/100ml of blood sampled if you are an ordinary driving licence holder; or
  • LESS THAN 0,02g/100ml of blood sampled if you are the holder of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP).

Such blood samples must be taken within 2 hours of arrest.

Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC)

Section 65(4) of the NRTA makes it an offence to drive a vehicle or occupy the driver’s seat with the engine of a motor vehicle running while a sample of your breath is not:

  • LESS THAN 0,24mg/1000ml of breath sampled if you are an ordinary driving licence holder; or
  • LESS THAN 0,10mg/1000ml of breath sampled if you are the holder of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP)

Such breath samples must be taken within 2 hours of arrest.


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6 things you need to know when being pulled over in South Africa