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Presidential Protection Unit convoys continue to pose a road safety threat for all motorists and their operation should be reviewed, says the AA. Picture: 123RF/radututa
Presidential Protection Unit convoys continue to pose a road safety threat for all motorists and their operation should be reviewed, says the AA. Picture: 123RF/radututa

The Automobile Association (AA) has called for a review of Presidential Protection Unit (PPU) convoys — especially those on major highways — saying they pose a safety threat to motorists.

The AA says it will communicate with the ministers of police and transport for an urgent review of the so-called blue-light brigades.

“Blue-light brigades are, simply put, a threat to other drivers. There is growing anecdotal evidence that PPU drivers are aggressive to other road users, that they travel way above the applicable speed limits, that they swerve dangerously in and out of traffic, and that they disrespect other road users. But the blame is not only theirs. Their passengers are as much to blame, if not more so,” the AA said.

Section 58(3) of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) permits drivers of emergency vehicles such as traffic officers and duly authorised drivers, as well as a “person appointed in terms of the SA Police Service Act who drives a vehicle in the carrying out of his or her duties”, to disregard the a road traffic signs. Regulation 176 of the NRTA further states motorists should give an absolute right of way to a vehicle sounding a device or bell or displaying an identification lamp. 

The AA points out that any motorist who drives recklessly or is careless about the safety of other road users can be held liable for gross negligence even if they are transporting a politician, delegate, VIP or driving a car fitted with a blue light.

“Obviously we appreciate this regulation is intended to deal with emergencies and to give authorities the road space they need to deal with these,” the AA said. “But to invoke this legislation to transport VIPs at high speeds, with a total disregard of traffic laws, is not only unacceptable, it’s dangerous. Road users should not be bullied off the road or be forced to give right of way when it is not safe to do so.  The law protects the safety of the road user first.” 

The association says such behaviour negates any attempts by the government to address the country’s high death toll on the country’s roads.

“If politicians  and members of the cabinet speak about road safety and the need to deal effectively with the carnage on the country’s roads, they must also obey the rules and instruct their drivers to do likewise,” it said.

“When blue-light brigades exceed speed limits, and drive dangerously and recklessly ... the message is that rules don’t apply to them, and the safety of other road users doesn’t matter to them.”

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