Dissatisfaction with electricity supply, service delivery and other issues has resulted in a large number of protests across the country. Many of these protests are occurring on highways where vehicles are stoned, trucks set alight and major traffic jams result. In Harrismith, on the N3 and N5, protests affected drivers considerably, culminating in the petrol bombing of a truck yesterday.
The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says protests are not foreign to South African motorists. “There are many steps drivers can take when unrest could affect them.
These are summed up into MasterDrive’s Three Golden Rules that prioritise physical safety.”
The ultimate goal is to avoid protests all together. “Increase your level of awareness. Follow social media sites, news reports and various other means that caution drivers of unrest. It also includes having awareness of your surroundings.
“If the traffic ahead has stopped, do not rush around it straight into a protest. If you see people gathering on the roadside, move away as quickly as possible. If you need a return trip, rather find another, safer route if possible. Ultimately, assess situations and make informed decisions.”
If you can, safely call the authorities. “Emergency services are best equipped to protect drivers and gain control of situations. If they are not already there, call them. If, however, this removes your attention from the protest or the road, rather wait until you can safely call.
“If emergency services are already there, listen to their instructions. They have the most experience and know which situations are potentially hazardous. Their goal is to calm tension and keep motorists safe and disregarding their instructions or causing more conflict worsens the situation for all.”
Reports of vehicles damaged in unrest is not unheard of. “Despite your best efforts you may find yourself one of the first to venture into the middle of a protest where vehicles are being damaged. The key is to stay calm, do not engage with protestors and slowly and carefully drive away from the unrest if you can.
“If your vehicle is damaged from throwing rocks, even if your tyres are flat, continue driving until you find a safe place to stop. The only time you should stop in the middle of unrest is if your vehicle will no longer go, it is a danger to the people in the road to continue or if you feel continuing puts your safety at risk. Most often, protestors do not want to harm motorists but rather intimidate and do enough damage to get media attention.”
Finding yourself in the middle of a protest is a frightening experience. “Follow the Three Golden Rules to avoid, manage and mitigate this risk. Whatever decision you feel is best, it should prioritise your personal safety over your possessions,” says Herbert.
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