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What to Do When Civil Protest Finds you on the Road

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Nigeria has witnessed much civil unrest. There have been, for instance, ENDSARS, Secession, and June 12 among others.  Usually, civil unrests in Nigeria put motoring in danger, especially when badly handled.

South Africa has also had its own share of civil unrest. In the country, for instance, many protests occur on highways, where vehicles are stoned, trucks set alight and major traffic jams result. In Harrismith, on the N3 and N5, protests affected drivers considerably, culminating in the petrol bombing of a truck this week.

No wonder, the CEO of South Africa-based MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, said: “Finding yourself in the middle of a protest is a frightening experience.”

Whenever a protest finds you on the road, therefore, you are advised to follow the Three Golden Rules to avoid, manage and mitigate this risk. Whatever decision you feel is best, it should prioritize your personal safety over your possessions.

Avoid

The ultimate goal is to avoid protests altogether. Increase your level of awareness. Follow social media sites, news reports and various other means that caution drivers of unrest. It also includes having awareness of your surroundings.

If the traffic ahead has stopped, do not rush around it straight into a protest. If you see people gathering on the roadside, move away as quickly as possible. If you need a return trip, rather find another, safer route if possible. Ultimately, assess situations and make informed decisions.

Authorities

If you can, safely call the authorities. “Emergency services are best equipped to protect drivers and gain control of situations. If they are not already there, call them. If, however, this removes your attention from the protest or the road, rather wait until you can safely call.

If emergency services are already there, listen to their instructions. They have the most experience and know which situations are potentially hazardous. Their goal is to calm tension and keep motorists safe and disregarding their instructions or causing more conflict worsens the situation for all.”

Mitigate

Reports of vehicles damaged in unrest is not unheard of. Despite your best efforts you may find yourself one of the first to venture into the middle of a protest where vehicles are being damaged. The key is to stay calm, do not engage with protestors and slowly and carefully drive away from the unrest if you can.

“If your vehicle is damaged from throwing rocks, even if your tyres are flat, continue driving until you find a safe place to stop. The only time you should stop in the middle of unrest is if your vehicle will no longer go, it is a danger to the people in the road to continue or if you feel continuing puts your safety at risk. Most often, protestors do not want to harm motorists but rather intimidate and do enough damage to get media attention,” Herbert recommended.

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