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How fast can the cops drive in a high-speed chase and is it legal for them to break the law?

2018-07-12 12:13

Janine Van der Post

Image: Motorpress

Car chases are usually something we'll see on TV shows, and usually they take place in the United States. 

Often citizens are also reminded that two wrongs do not make a right, so filming other motorists breaking the rules of the road while driving does not make it okay to do so. 

If that's the case, does the same rule not have to apply to officials when it comes to high speed car chases? Do law officials not put other road users in danger at the same time?

Arrive Alive's Johan Jonck says: "It is important to keep in mind that any justification offered for contravening the rules of the road [such as for blue lights] should be done with due consideration to the safety of others.

"It might be questionable i.e. speeding across a traffic light at 120km/h in hot pursuit whether due consideration was given to the safety of other road users." 

Image: iStock


So why then is it okay for police or traffic officials the world over all right to chase alleged criminals in high-speed incidents?

Week in and week out, the Western Cape Department of Transport sends out their report of motorists fined at high speeds, some exceeding 160km/h and some even close to 200km/h.

With cash-in-transit heists a common occurrence these days in South Africa, police chases on local roads are becoming the norm too.

Have you ever witnessed a high-speed police chase or have you been endangered during a pursuit as an innocent bystander or motorist?  Email us

In October 2017, Iowa state troopers were in a 15-minute car chase with a man who admitted after his arrest that he had always wanted to be chased by police at high speeds as part of his bucket list.

That same month, A 10-year-old Ohio boy had been charged with felony for fleeing and eluding the police and for leading state troopers on a mile-long pursuit that reached speeds of 160km/h.

Here's what the law says about police officials and high-speed chases

Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Demobosky says: The police most certainly are “allowed to” pursue fleeing criminals at high speed. This anomaly is in no way unique to South Africa and I cannot think if a single country in the world where it is not allowed.

Section 60 of the National Road Traffic Act (No 93 of 1996) grants permission to certain drivers to exceed the general speed limit. Amongst those drivers are police. Section 58 of the National Road Traffic Act also allows them to disregard road traffic signs.

As far as the SAPS standing orders with respect to pursuit of offenders, I am not to certain what they say, however it must not be forgotten that the Criminal Procedure Act empowers the arrest of any person who commits a crime in the presence of a peace officer or a police officer.

There is however a provision to allowing high-speed chases and the like and that is that the National Road Traffic Act only allows such if the vehicle concerned is driven with due regard to the safety of other traffic. That’s where things go wrong!"


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