Winter in South Africa is not only synonymous with crisp mornings but also industrial action. This time of year has gained the infamous nickname of ‘Strike Season.’ What you can also be sure of, is that motorists are the most likely to be caught up in the conflict. In Gauteng, the R59 towards Vereening is seeing stoning of cars, in April there were various protests across South Africa over land invasions and recently the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban was the site of violent protests and trucks were set alight.

There are many protests that seek to disrupt traffic rather than cause harm to any motorists or their cars. In the other instances, however, drivers need to know what to do when they are caught up in a violent protest or strike. The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, provides some tips on what to do:

  • Keep track of planned strikes. If one is due to cross your route, rather go another way.
  • Listen to the news or check social media as you prepare for work in the morning to learn about any unplanned protests.
  • Drive looking 12 seconds ahead of you so that you can see any potential unrest before it is at your window.
  • Get into the habit of looking for hazards on the road. This includes people on the sides of the road and on bridges. This will give you extra time to take evasive action where necessary.
  • If you are in traffic as a result of a protest, ensure you have identified an escape route which you can take if things turn violent.
  • Never block yourself in when in protest traffic.
  • Stay in your car unless your safety is threatened and you cannot escape the situation in the car.
  • Be ready to exit your car quickly by unbuckling your seatbelt if you are stationary.
  • Do not engage with protestors in a negative way.
  • If you are forced to get away from an area quickly, remain calm. Taking aggressive evasive action that does not account for other drivers or people on the road could be more dangerous than acting more calmly and slower.
  • If police have blocked off an area, listen to them and rather find an alternative route.
  • If police are not present, call them for assistance.
  • Have emergency contact numbers pre-programmed into your phone. Trying to remember a number in an emergency wastes valuable time.
  •  Also keep someone posted on where you are and what is happening.

Remember that if you ever find yourself in this frightening situation, remaining calm is key. “The objective is to avoid or escape the situation as quickly as possible. Never let a potentially dangerous situation catch you by surprise or block yourself in when things can turn violent. Strike season is a reality for South Africans and we should always be prepared,” advises Herbert.