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Thieves place spikes across the road that damage a vehicle’s tyres, forcing the driver to pull over. Picture: SUPPLIED
Thieves place spikes across the road that damage a vehicle’s tyres, forcing the driver to pull over. Picture: SUPPLIED

Road spiking crime in SA is increasing at an alarming rate and police are warning motorists not to stop for any object on the road.

Road spiking involves placing spikes disguised to look like plastic bags or clothing on the road, usually when it is dark. Motorists drive over them, assuming them to be harmless. These “spikes” are mostly made from nails, wood or even big stones. The aim is to damage the vehicle’s tyres, forcing drivers to pull over and assess the situation. Once the driver is out of the car, the thieves rob them.

The issue was highlighted in November when former minister of transport Sindisiwe Chikunga and her protection team fell victim to the crime and were robbed on the N3 between Vosloorus and Heidelberg.

Richard Brussow from the National Hijack Prevention Academy told eNCA that the thieves usually worked in groups of two. One places the spiked object on the road, usually the fast lane, while the other hides a few hundred metres further down the road, waiting for the vehicle to come to a standstill. The thieves are usually on foot, but sometimes they drive behind the spiked vehicle until it stops, and then attack. 

Speaking to Newsroom Africa, Motor Industry Staff Association’s (Misa) Sonja Carstens said criminals were starting to use their own vehicles to follow their victims until they had to pull over, and then would rob them. She said thieves sometimes placed clothing on top of the spikes to fool drivers into thinking there was a person on the road. Often they did not stop at robbery, but would also assault or rape their victims and take them to ATMs to withdraw money, said Carstens.

According to Cartrack, there has been an increase in the number of vehicles damaged by spikes on the road. There used to be one or two reports a month, but now there were several incidents a week, with most incidents happening in Pretoria and surrounding areas, it said.

“Criminals are constantly developing new ways of setting traps for motorists, and as they’re developing their techniques, we need to wise up to stay safe,” a Cartrack spokesperson said.

Misa has provided a list of hotspots, most of which are on highways around Gauteng:

  • The N4 from Mpumalanga to Pretoria between the Solomon Mahlangu and Watermeyer off-ramps‍;
  • The N4 from Pretoria to Mpumalanga between the Bronkhorstspruit and Balmoral off-ramps‍;
  • The N1 and N4 Mpumalanga interchange in Pretoria‍;
  • The N4 to Rustenburg between R80 Mabopane freeway and Brits Plaza tollgate Golden Highway‍;
  • The R21 freeway from OR Tambo International Airport to Pretoria‍;
  • The R562 in Olifantsfontein‍;
  • The N12 in Witbank, under the Merridale bridge‍;
  • The N12 between Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom‍;
  • The N3 between Leondale and Barry Marais Road‍; and
  • The N17 between Rondebult and Heidelberg Road.

Cartrack offers the following tips on how steer clear of the spikes:

  • Avoid driving at night: It is difficult to see objects at night while driving, especially on roads that do not have enough lighting. Criminals take advantage of that, which is why most of these incidents happen at night or in the early hours of the morning.
  • Keep a good following distance: Create a safe space between you and the vehicle in front of you so that you can manoeuvre out of situations.
  • Do not stop for any objects on the road while driving: This is how the thieves get your attention, which leads to you getting out of the vehicle. If you spot an obstacle ahead of you, move into the emergency lane or the grass if the highway allows.
  • Reduce speed: Travel at a reasonable speed and try not to go over 80km/h if you know you’re in a dangerous area. This improves your chances of seeing obstacles on the road. Thieves mostly target the fast lane because they know that by the time motorists realise that there’s something on the road, it is too late.
  • Stay in the middle: If circumstances allow, drive in the middle of two lanes, with two wheels on one side and two wheels on the other side. This may help you miss spikes placed in the lane, and it also makes it easier to swerve left or right. Remember, this is not in line with the rules of the road and should be done only in an absolute emergency, like when you suspect there may be spikes on the road.
  • Change lanes just before passing under a bridge. It is usually dark under a bridge, which makes it a hotspot for spikes. 

Here are some of the things you can do to get yourself out of the sticky situation unharmed and possibly dodge the entire situation:

  • Drive slowly and as far as possible: Your rims can handle more than you think. They can take you a few kilometres further, so long as you drive slowly. The goal is to get as far away as possible from the perpetrators, who are probably on foot. Run-flat tyres also come in handy as they are built to keep your wheels running even with little or no pressure.
  • Do not brake: Most victims hit the brakes out of fear once the car falls in the direction of the damaged tyre. When you brake, you transfer all the weight of the vehicle to the front. Try as much as you can to keep the steering wheel straight and keep going, as the goal is to get as far away from the attackers as possible.
  • Don’t stay in the car: If your vehicle comes to a standstill, run out of the car as far as possible and hide while calling for help. Staying in the vehicle is what the thieves are hoping for because they want all your valuables, including your cellphone and bank card, so they can empty your bank account. This will also help you avoid getting kidnapped. Send your live location: Make sure someone can track your whereabouts. This will be very helpful in getting you assistance faster, and should the thieves or any other potentially dangerous individual get to you, someone will be able to trace you using your last known location. 
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