Highway robbery ‘spikes’ in South Africa – latest tactics and hotspots

 ·25 Apr 2024

There has been a notable increase in the number of reported cases of criminals placing spikes or objects on public roads with the intention of robbing them, especially in and around Pretoria.

Speaking to eNCA, Crime Watch’s Yusuf Abramjee noted that the reports of these criminal tactics have increased over the past few months despite the modus operandi being a concern in South Africa for some time.

Although spiking attempts can happen anytime, they are more likely to occur after dark. The perpetrators take advantage of the darkness to hide the hazards from unsuspecting drivers until it’s too late for them to brake or avoid the spikes.

The main objective of these criminals is to damage a vehicle, particularly its tyres, causing the driver to pull over and assess the situation. These criminals mainly use spikes made from nails and wood or big stones and other objects.

Once the driver pulls over, they are vulnerable to robbery and may lose their possessions.

Abramjee highlighted that the notable hotspots for spiking at the moment are the N4 from Pretoria to Rustenburg and the N4 on the way to Mpumalanga.

This seems to correlate to the hotspots registered by the Gauteng Traffic Police, which identified the following as spiking hotspots:

  • N4 Mpumalanga to Pretoria between Solomon Mahlangu and Watermeyer off-ramp.
  • N4 Pretoria to Mpumalanga between Bronkhorstspruit and Balmoral off-ramp.
  • N1 Polokwane N4 Mpumalanga interchange in Pretoria.
  • N4 to Rustenburg between R80 Mabopane Freeway and Brits Plaza tollgate.
  • Golden Highway.
  • R21 Freeway from OR Tambo International Airport to Pretoria.
  • R562 in Olifantsfontein
  • N12 in Witbank, under the Merridale bridge
  • N12 between Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom
  • N3 between Leondale and Barry Marais Road
  • N17 between Rondebult and Heidelberg Road

Abramjee added that incidents have been reported on secondary adjacent roads in and around those areas.

The Gauteng Traffic Police added these criminals move from one area to the other, where the roads are quiet, to rob motorists of their hard-earned cash and other belongings.

“These incidents happen especially on Friday evenings and throughout the weekend between 18h00 and 04h00 in the morning,” said the Traffic Police.

It has also been noted that spiking cases tend to rise over the weekend on quiet stretches of road, as this increases the odds of the criminals catching a lone vehicle unawares.

Due to the low visibility and high speeds at which they occur, the nature of the crime makes it quite difficult to completely safeguard oneself from the criminals.

However, MasterDrive CEO Eugene Herbert has provided a few methods with which motorists can reduce their risk on the roads and increase their chances of avoiding the horrid situation.

These include:

  • Avoid driving over anything on the road, including plastic bags
  • When passing under a bridge, change lanes just before you pass
  • Reduce your speed to increase your chances of seeing obstacles on the road
  • Concrete lintels are being used as well. If you cannot avoid them any other way, slow down and carefully drive over them
  • If the circumstances allow, travel straddling two lanes, as it may help you miss spikes being placed in the lane
  • If there is another vehicle present, drive six seconds or more behind so their driving can alert you if anything is amiss
  • If you spot an obstacle before you reach it, move into the emergency lane or onto the grass if that section of the highway allows for it

If the unfortunate happens and you do hit a spike, reduce your speed to approximately 30-40km/h and continue driving to the nearest place of safety instead of stopping immediately.

“If you do not make it to a place of safety but do obtain some distance between yourself and the criminals, get out of your car and safely find a place to conceal yourself and call for help,” said Herbert.

Read: Warning for motorists filling up at petrol stations in South Africa

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