Don’t Warn About Roadblocks On Social Media

The Durban North SAPS are getting a fair amount of (possibly) unwanted social media attention. This thanks to recent statements made by the station’s spokesperson Captain Raymond Deokaran.

These were that he was aware of past instances where people had warned friends, family, or even complete strangers of where roadblocks were placed. This was done either via WhatsApp groups or even announcements made at local pubs.

“This does not solve the problem. It lets people know about roadblocks and encourages some potentially dangerous impaired drivers to get behind the wheel. Social media can be a valuable asset, but not when its used to undercut the law. We hold roadblocks to try to get dangerous people off the road,” he said.

The aim of roadblocks is to get dangerous people off the roads. And, to get motorists to obey the rule of law. Speed cameras aim to curb dangerous driving and prevent motorists from going over the speed limit.

Captain Deokaran continued by saying that people posting messages warning others of roadblocks could be charged with defeating the ends of justice if caught.

Previous Warnings

This is not the first time that a call to stop roadblock warnings has been made. In September 2010, the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) issued a statement speaking out against the tipping off of motorists about formal roadblocks. This was in response to PigSpotter, who had warned motorists via Twitter about roadblocks.

Both public declarations speak out against people warning others about roadblocks. But, does not address technology warning motorists of speed cameras around the country.

Other Tech Alerts

Both Garmin and TomTom GPS devices have features which alert motorists to the changing positions of speed cameras.

The Google owned app, Waze, also alerts motorists to a range of things while on the road.

On the company’s website, they state “Get alerted before you approach police, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams, all shared by other drivers in real-time. It’s like a personal heads-up from a few million of your friends on the road.”

Physical Alerts

One of the ways in which motorists warn oncoming drivers of roadblocks is by flashing their headlights.

ArriveAlive published an article about whether or not the flashing of headlights can be considered as defeating the ends of justice. This with regards to warning motorists about roadblocks:

A – Is it an offence to flash lights at motorists?

B – If this is found to be an offence – should the offender be arrested?

“The crime of defeating or obstructing the course of justice consists of unlawfully and intentionally engaging in conduct, which defeats or obstructs the course or administration of justice.”

In answering question A  – whether flashing lights is an offence – I would like to refer to the Criminal Law Text Book from Snyman. Snyman reveals that there are conflicting judgements:

“If a motorist warns other motorists of the presence of a speed trap by flashing his lights , he interferes with the due administration of justice. According to the decision in Naidoo [1777 2 SA 123 (N)], he commits an attempt to defeat the course of justice. However, in S v Perera [1978 3 SA 523 (T)] in which the facts were materially the same, it was held that the person committing the act will only be guilty if he has reason to believe that the vehicle approaching him is exceeding the speed limit. Or, that the driver of this vehicle has the intention of exceeding the speed limit. In as far as these two decisions are irreconcilable it is submitted that the latter should be followed. This type of conduct is in effect nothing more than a warning to others to obey the law.

In answering question B – if flashing of lights is an offence – should the offender be arrested? This second question needs to be considered with caution by any arresting officer. The Constitution protects the rights of every individual. As such, law enforcement officials should take notice, not only of Criminal Procedure Act, but also of applying their arresting powers in line with the Constitution.


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