Johannesburg - In light of the recent incident this weekend, where a motorist had to defend himself and shot dead one of three armed robbery suspects who placed car spikes on the R80 highway, what can you do as a motorist in the event of such a situation?
The IOL team has canvassed the opinions of insurers, the AA and crime-fighting activists to equip members of the public in such a situation.
Unlike the motorist who was armed and could defend himself and his wife, many South Africans could be vulnerable to the criminals after hitting spikes as tyres could blow out immediately, leading to the motorist being unable to drive away to a safe location such as a police station or a filling station.
This is what you should do in such an incident.
1 Keep driving
“Do not stop,” says anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee.
Abramjee said motorists should not stop in dark and potentially dangerous places, even if it meant damaging their rims further. He said the road spiking incidents were of great concern and said he was continuously calling on the police to take urgent and decisive action.
“Even if you notice that your tyres and your rims are damaged, continue to drive to the nearest safe place, as the minute you stop is when they attack you. I would rather pay for a new rim and be safe than to stop and try to change the wheel,” he said.
Abramjee said it appeared that the problem of spikes was spreading as there appeared to be a lot of “copy cat” incidents by smaller gangs.
“We're now seeing that these criminals are striking in other areas, which is very very worrying,” he said. “I call on the police to make sure that they beef up their patrols in the affected areas. While some arrests have been made, it appears that a number of smaller gangs are still operating. We need to see police beef up their operations,” he said.
2 Minimise driving at night and near hot spots
Ernest North, the co-founder of AI-driven insurtech company Naked Insurance, said it would be wise to minimise driving at night and also to avoid known crime hot spots.
“Avoid driving through known crime hot spot areas if you can use a safer alternate route, even if it’s a bit longer.
“At night visibility is limited and these incidents are more frequent.”
3 Be alert
“Watch out for people on the side of the road or on bridges, especially when driving through known hot spots or travelling at night,” North said.
4 Don’t speed
North said driving within the allocated speed limit was also advised, as this would allow motorists the opportunity to spot potential hazards – such as spikes and potholes – in the road.
“Keeping within the speed limit will help you to spot potential hazards sooner and to slow down or take evasive action in a more controlled manner.
5 Drive on slowly to safety
“Your safety comes first. If your tyres are damaged when driving near a hot spot area but your car is still drivable, drive slowly to the next petrol station or other place of safety before you stop to change them.
6 Summon assistance
“Should you be involved in one of these incidents, an accident or need to stop for any other reason, the Naked Insurance app lets you request emergency assistance such as a mechanic or an armed guard for these situations,” said North.
Layton Beard, the spokesperson for the AA, said getting the AA’s Armed Response could add a security layer for vulnerable motorists. The service costs about R30 a month, and in the case of a motorist sending a distress signal, it would immediately alert the nearest armed response provider in the area to provide safety for a motorist while they wait for help.
“It’s truly terrifying and these sort of things can happen, they can happen anywhere as these criminals move around from place to place, so it would be very useful to have such a service in a time of personal crisis or a dangerous situation,” he said.
Ricardo Coetzee, the head of Auto & General Insurance also provided tips for motorists.
Avoiding the situation:
– Monitor the news and be aware of hotspots. Avoid them completely if at all possible.
– Avoid unsafe areas as a rule, especially when you’re alone and when there’s little traffic on the road.
– Always keep your eyes on the road and slow down. Spikes can be avoided if you have enough time to react.
– Run-flat tyres could be a good investment, as they often enable you to drive a couple of extra kilometres to a place of safety.
He said in case of an incident whereby a motorist had driven over spikes, they should:
– If your car is fitted with a panic button, use it immediately.
– Try to get as much distance between yourself and the area where the spikes were as possible. Only drive your vehicle if it is safe to do so.
– Stop in a safer spot and immediately alert the authorities.
But in the unfortunate scenario whereby a motorist was confronted by a criminal, he urges the following:
– Remain calm.
– Do not argue.
– Do not make sudden gestures
– Avoid eye contact but try to remember what the assailants look like by identifying and remembering special features.
– Comply with the assailant’s directions (within reason)
– Once safe, try and get away from the area as quickly as possible
– Don’t be a hero – your life is worth more than your car and possessions.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo also said motorists should be extra vigilant in the event that their tyres suffered a blow-out.
“If motorists suspect that their tyre punctures are as a result of having driven over spikes, they must immediately alert the police by calling the SAPS emergency number 10111, scanning their immediate environment and staying vigilant while changing their tyre, but if they feel unsafe then they must try to drive to the nearest filling station or police station,” he said.
He said the two suspects who fled the scene on Friday were still at large despite a manhunt being launched for their arrest.