LETTER | I was arrested for speeding, but I thought my children and I were in danger

<i>Image: Motorpress</i>
<i>Image: Motorpress</i>
A Wheels24 reader shares his experience of being arrested for speeding recently, when he actually thought he and his children were in danger when he was chased by an unmarked vehicle.

Several years ago when I had lived in Johannesburg, I needed to give a friend a lift to work at an ungodly hour. I was not speeding and had been adhering to the speed limits as there were several speed cameras on the route. As I approached Sandton, a police vehicle came out of a dark quiet street and pulled up behind me trying to signal that I pull over. It was 03:00, the streets were empty and I felt very uncomfortable pulling over.

At the time there was a spate of violent crimes occurring with criminals pretending to be law officials. There was also something known as the "blue light protocol" to help motorists feel safe in these kind of incidents. I put on my hazards, put my window down down and tried to signal to the officers to follow me to the Shell garage I knew was just around the corner. I slowed down and even tried to tell them that. Thank God the petrol station came up and I could pull over with people around. The officers were aggressive and wanted to arrest me. I tried explaining where I was off to and that I felt threatened because of the crimes at the time. 

These incidents still occur regularly around the country.

Wheels24 reader Joe Smith shares his story:

"I was driving on N1, from Pretoria to Limpopo, Boyne Matshelapata. I was going to drop my children off there. 

I remember white VW Golf with tinted windows which I passed on my left side, and in front of me, there was a white NP 200 bakkie. After I passed the bakkie, the guy took his hand out the window and waived or signalled, immediately after that the VW Golf, which was moving at a slow pace, started following me. 

I panicked and increased my speed, and the Golf would do the same, even when I slowed down it did the same because the car was unbranded, it did not have an aeriel or any sign that it is a police car, and naturally, I panicked. 

When I surveyed the situation, I thought the guy driving the bakkie was signalling to those in the VW because there were children in the car I felt the need to protect them by trying to get away from people I thought were hijackers. In the midst of my panicking, they switched on the blue lights, and by then, I had already exceeded the speed limit. My first thought was that this car is part of the 'blue light gang' who have been hijacking cars all around the country for months. Secondly the signalling by the guy in the bakkie to me I thought they were working together. 

I wanted to drive until I reached the toll gate. Still, I just thought for the sake of my children I should stop, because if those people were a gang, they would not show any remorse and I did not want to put my children in a situation where they end up being shot. That's when I decided to pull over. 

When I stopped, they pulled over in front of me, and two officers stepped out of the Golf and signalled I should park in front of them. I did that and stepped out of the car. They then asked for my driving licence, which I provided. They made me stand in front of their vehicle and informed me that I am being arrested and have the right to remain silent. 

I was left confused because they did not even ask any questions and when I tried to explain the other cop told me to shut up because his colleague is talking, they said I should follow them to Mokopane Police Station. I was bewildered, which made me just stand in one place because I didn't understand what was happening, and that's when the one inspector became aggressive and tried pulling me by my pants. I requested for him not to do that because he is going to make my children panic. 

As a law-abiding citizen, I then followed them as requested until we reached the police station, which is where I was charged for speeding; everything I did at that moment was to protect my children. 

About four months ago a police officer for Gauteng warned citizens about blue light hijackings there were over 48 cases and 28 of them are in court. It is a reality we live under when you see an unmarked vehicle that suddenly flashes blue lights, the first instinct is to try to get to a safe place, and that's precisely what I tried to do. 

Look out for Justice Project SA's Howard Dembovsky's opinion on unmarked law official vehicles in response to this article; it will be published on Thursday, 31 December 2020.

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