There is always a degree of uncertainty regarding speed traps and speed cameras in South Africa, including when you can be fined and where it is legal to trap drivers.
The growing list of technologies used in South Africa to enforce speed limits further complicates matters.
Here are answers to some of the common questions regarding the legality of speeding fines, with a focus on hand-operated speed trap devices.
The answers are courtesy of the AA’s Legal Advice portal, which contains information regarding road use in South Africa.
When you can be fined for speeding
The simple answer is that if you exceed the speed limit, you can be fined.
10km/h leeway of the speed limit may be applied before issuing a ticket for speeding. However, this is a guideline and does not have to be applied.
“It is important to remember that once a prosecution for speeding is initiated, the charge will start from 1km/h over the posted speed limit,” said the AA.
The minimum allowable distance between two speed traps
There is no minimum allowable distance between two speed traps.
Driving into a zone with a lower speed limit
When you are driving into a zone with a slower speed limit – example: from 120km/h into an 80km/h zone – there is a 300m grace distance.
The Prosecution Guidelines state that no prosecution may be instituted where the speed measurement was taken within 300 metres of the commencement of the speed limit zone, except with permission from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The guidelines are operational guidelines only and non-compliance does not influence the accuracy of measurement results.
The decision on whether to prosecute remains at the discretion of the prosecutor.
A speed trap on the bottom of a hill
A manned speed trap where offenders are stopped at the roadside may be set up anywhere.
Fixed speed traps, where a photograph is taken, must have authorisation from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for installation.
This authority is motivated by improving traffic safety through reducing the speed to the speed limit in that area, regardless of location.
Handheld speed trap requirements
The prominent guidelines, provided by the AA, regarding handheld speed traps are:
- A valid calibration certificate and the operator’s certificate must be available at all times.
- A driver shall be afforded the opportunity to view the speed reading and the two certificates.
- The speed measurement equipment (SME) must be mounted on a firm and stable surface. If it is mounted in or on a vehicle, the vehicle must be stabilised.
The following is in terms of the prosecuting guidelines for speed measurement equipment and traffic light violation-monitoring equipment.
When selecting a site for a speed measurement exercise, the following must be adhered to:
- Site selection must be done during daytime for day and nighttime operation.
- There shall be no large, stationary, or metal objects within a radius of 50m in front of the radar SME.
- There shall be no metal road signs or vertical flat surfaces within 15 degrees on either side of the aiming direction, within a distance of 200m of the antenna.
- The equipment may only be used where there is a clear view within 45 degrees of the direction of aim over a distance of 600m.
- There shall be no high-tension cables within a radius of 100m of the antenna.
- There shall be no discharge type lamps in operation within 45 degrees of the direction of aim within 100m of the antenna.
Speed measuring equipment
- Equipment modified or permanently set that no signals are received and processed from vehicles more than 300m away may be used on straight roads.
- Equipment not modified shall be used where rises and bends in the road take all vehicles further than 300m out of the measuring area of the SME.
Guidelines for prosecution with regard to speed measurements by laser equipment
When selecting a site for a speed measurement exercise, the operator must have a clear and uninterrupted view of the road and the vehicle measured for the duration of the measurement.
What you may ask when you are pulled over for speeding
Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembosky said you may ask to see the calibration certificate for the speed measuring equipment used.
You may also ask to see the operator’s certificate for the person operating the device.
A motorist may also ask to see the officer’s appointment certificate as a peace officer.
Dembovsky said should you choose to request these certificates, you must remain polite at all times.
“If any one of them is not produced, don’t get into an argument about it, simply note it for your defence,” said Dembovsky.