A driver who recorded themselves hitting 309km/h on the N1 in Gauteng was recently arrested while attending a funeral in Limpopo.
He was described as a 36-year-old man and is being held at the Midrand police station. He is set to appear in court soon.
Social media comments regarding the video of the speedster were mixed, with many people slating his actions as irresponsible and criminal while others defended the driver’s actions.
To find out more about the process of arresting and prosecuting this speedster, MyBroadband spoke to Justice Project South Africa chair Howard Dembovsky about the case.
Ownership vs driving
“The starting point will be whether a peace officer at the RTMC obtained a warrant of arrest in terms of Section 43 of the Criminal Procedure Act, No. 51 of 1977 (CPA) from a Magistrate before arresting him,” Dembovsky said.
“If such a warrant was not obtained, the arrest would automatically be deemed unlawful. This is because Section 40(1)(a) of the CPA only allows a peace officer to arrest a person who commits an offence in his or her presence.”
The next step is to prove whether the owner of the car was, in fact, the driver. The National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) removes this obstacle by assuming the two are the same unless evidence is given otherwise.
“The RTMC and by extension, the NPA faces several legal challenges or hurdles, but proving that the registered owner of the vehicle was the driver is not one of them,” Dembovsky told MyBroadband.
Dembovsky said this is because the NRTA provides that “where in any prosecution in terms of the common law relating to the driving of a vehicle on a public road, it is necessary to prove who was the driver of such vehicle, it shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that such vehicle was driven by the owner thereof”.
“In road traffic law, such evidence may be adduced in an affidavit, but I think the accused person would be pushing his luck pursuing such a route,” he added.
Speed trapping and social media
When it comes to proving that the speedster broke the speed limit, only speed measuring equipment that meets SANS 1795 specifications may be used in prosecuting any offence involving exceeding the speed limit, Dembovsky said.
This means that e-toll cameras cannot be used as evidence in speeding cases, as they do not meet these specifications.
“As has been admitted by SANRAL and has been proven in the Duduzani Zuma case, the cameras used on SANRAL’s e-toll gantries do not comply with SANS 1795, and their reliability in proving as simple an element as the time a vehicle passed under them has been trashed in court,” Dembovsky said.
“This is also the reason that e-toll gantries have not been used for average speed over distance prosecutions and remain unlikely to be in the future, because of the implications of taking them and the equipment to which they are connected to an accredited laboratory for type approval and regular calibration.”
The video posted to social media is not necessarily conclusive evidence either, as it is easy to doctor a digital video.
In a world of deepfakes and social media giants struggling to combat the proliferation of fake posts and media, it is difficult to rely on the ostensible truth of a video as irrefutable evidence.
Dembovsky said the consequences faced by the N1 speedster would depend on which charges are proven by the state.
“If convicted of exceeding the general speed limit applicable to a freeway (S59(4)(b) of the NRTA), he or she faces a fine or imprisonment not exceeding one year,” he said.
“He or she also faces a suspension of his or her driving licence for a minimum of six months on first conviction (S35(1)(aA) read with S35(i) of the NRTA).”
This potential sentence increases if the driver is convicted of exceeding a posted speed limit.
“If convicted of exceeding the posted speed limit applicable to a freeway (S59(4)(a) of the NRTA), he or she faces a fine or imprisonment not exceeding three years, but no suspension of his or her driving licence,” Dembovsky added.
If convicted of reckless or negligent driving, the driver would face a fine or imprisonment not exceeding six years and a suspension of their driving licence for a minimum of six months.
If the registered owner of the vehicle was not the driver who committed the offence, they will not face any consequences for the misuse of their vehicle by the driver.
Video of speedster
The video below shows the speedster breaking 300km/h.