MEET WITH THE HEAD OF GHOST SQUAD
10 July 2013 | Article by: Jason Sasman | Images: Various
NB* This article was originally published in Raceweb Online
17, back in 2010. With some of the BBM broadcasts and facebook
messages flying around these days I thought I should republish
this article Jason wrote when we sat down with the head of Ghost
Squad, the same man that pulled my disc many moons ago, Officer
Saunders. Here's what Jason has to say from our meeting...
Arriving at Parow Traffic department was defiantly not on my
list of fun things to do for the day; especially when it involved
having to meet one of the most “feared and hated”
cops in the Western Cape. But this drastic step had to be taken
because for far too long, many car enthusiasts (as we like to
think of ourselves) had been crying out in anger about what
they felt has been the unreasonable and unwarranted handling
of alleged traffic offenses towards them. More specifically;
by one man from the Ghost Squad. I’m referring of course...
to Officer Saunders.
Expecting to be led into an interrogation room strait out of
“Law and Order”; and then to be “phone-booked”
until I saw reason, turns out, was definitely not the case.
Instead, all participants of the meeting met in a well lit boardroom
resembling a “Big 5 corporate” more than a traffic
department. Pleasantly, the faces all round were of a friendly
disposition and greetings were promptly exchanged all round.
This didn’t make me relax much...as they still had guns,
and all I had was a pen and piece of paper.
Soon all idle chat ceased, and we got down to business. I had
come with a mission in mind. To try, on behalf of my fellow
petrol-heads, to expose the alleged injustice that had been
allowed to carry on for far too long. I wanted to simply right
the wrongs. Armed with a handful of documents listing all the
complaints we have received over time from you, the valued reader,
about your ordeals and the very questions that had arisen from
them. I felt justice was about to be served.
Immediately I fired away, one question after the other. Some
dealing with cars and the modifications added to them and others
regarding bikes and the flack they have been getting. But for
every question I belted out in almost sarcastic jest, I received
much to my surprise, an extremely detailed, logical and 100%
lawful answer as to why the necessary steps was taken against
the said offender(s). It actually amazed me as to the great
length that Officer Saunders went into to explain each and every
situation and variation thereof. Not only using reference case
numbers to give it merit, but also showing the corresponding
photographic evidence. If that wasn’t enough, he also
put to use his 27yr experience in the Traffic Department, qualifications
as an A-grade roadworthy tester and senior Air-brake technician
to give even more detail. This pretty much meant he knew what
he was talking about... oh dear!
After a while my questions started to lose their “mojo”,
as I knew Saunders had only to reference his immense knowledge
of the law and automotive mechanics to subdue my attacks. At
one point during the meeting I couldn’t help but have
the infamous courtroom scene from the movie “A few good
men” [Columbia Pictures-1992] playing over and over in
my mind...” You want the truth? You can’t handle
the truth”! It then dawned on me... this wasn’t
a battle of “who’s right and who’s wrong”,
but rather the simple fact that it seems “ we are not
as informed as we would like to think we are”, as was
clearly being pointed out to me in the “boardroom bloodbath”.
I can only liken this situation (and the point brought across)
to someone that likes wearing furry hats...sure they look great
...but that doesn’t make it legal to out and club baby
seals to death yourself.
Now at this point I know you might be formulating a plan to
have me run off the road or my letterbox set alight, but please
allow me to elaborate as best I can just a few of the issues
answered, bringing a much needed light to switch on above my
head (and maybe even yours):
* Aftermarket headlight- Yes they look cool in LED, Xenon or
Crystal and will score you style points, but legally there is
an issue with them because the aftermarket items do not have
the SABS approved 45m (for dims) and 100m (for brights) cut-off
line moulding in the glass or plastic lens. This factory standard(or
OEM as its called in the automotive industry) line moulding
is to direct the light to the above distances to illuminate
the road surface in front and ahead of the vehicle and also
as not to blind oncoming drivers on the right side of the road.
The Aftermarket ones just shine the light in ALL
directions; not only NOT lighting up the correct
parts of the road for you, but also blinding oncoming traffic
(as many of us have seen cars that seem to have their brights
on all the time). Yes, some parts have” EURO” or
“ISO-9000” markings, but at the end of the day,
if that “aftermarket part” doesn’t act exactly
like the OEM part (same goes for rear lights), then it isn’t
really working correctly, thus ILLEGAL! Make
* Lowered suspension- Again more style points and even claims
of better handling. But the law disagrees. It says that altering
the suspension geometry (lowering, ect) not only compromises
the workings and safety of the shocks (bottoming out), but other
parts as well, such as lower control arms (irregular or early
malfunction), steering becomes inadequately heavy and much more.
Especially when done incorrectly and cheaply! This affects the
handling of the car, and if you can’t handle it, it’s
not safe, and if it’s not safe, it’s illegal!
Ps: Cutting and heating springs is an EPIC NO-NO!
As heating makes the coil steel into brittle mild steel and
causes it to break later on under stress; and cutting throws
out the OEM geometry of the purpose designed standard spring
causing unwanted “bounce”, and that very bounce
in an unexpected bend causes wheel lift, and any wheel (no matter
how good/expensive/sporty) off the ground is not working, and
if your wheel/grip isn’t working, then your off the road,
thus...its not legal! (This includes the tyres touching the
bodywork and collapsed or sagged coils).
Loud Exhaust- This one is easy, its simple noise pollution.
If it’s too loud (and I’m quite sure you KNOW
it is) then you know it’s not legal. Even Killarney had
noise pollution rules for goodness sake.
* Street Racing- I don’t think I really need to explain
the legal/illegal aspect of this point.
* Colour lights- (Blue, Red, Green ect) Found on bonnets, under
cars, in the park lights of the headlights cluster and many
more creative places. Unless you’re a Police officer,
Traffic cop or any other government/ legal departmental employee,
you are NOT ALLOWED to have them on/inside
or under your vehicle while being operated on public roads (okay
during a car show where the car is parked and only on display,
but otherwise, no-no).
Those were just SOME of the hundreds of points
and matters that were discussed. And as you can well tell, each
one had a very logical and legal answer to it, simple as that.
And as I’m sure you can well gather, and by Officer Saunders
reiteration, he has no issue with guys/gals trying to make their
cars “look good”, but as long as it is done in the
CORRECT LEGAL manner. He only has an issue
with it if it COMPROMISES SAFETY in any way,
shape or form for yourself or other road users. In fact, he
has even welcomed the idea of having guys approach him or to
contact him to find out what ADVICE he can offer to overcome
some of the situations that they find themselves in, sounds
like a great idea to me. Also, before you even think that it’s
only the “car guys being targeted”, it’s most
definitely not. Officer Saunders was kind enough to show me
batches of case files split into “cars” and “trucks
and taxis”. It seems the taxis and trucks have much more
reasons to “fear or hate” Saunders; as the large
pile of files on them far outweighed that of the car-scene guys.
So in conclusion, it turns out that Saunders and the rest of
the Traffic Department aren’t a bunch of “soulless
Vampires” who have steaming cups of blood and discuss
ways in which to wreck personal havoc and vendetta against you,
but rather they are simply there to enforce the LAW, and it
seems they have their merits in doing so. Atop that, they are
genuinely concerned about your, and others, road safety. As
Officer Saunders personally mentioned, being an officer isn’t
about giving someone hell about a “skew number plate”
or “a sticker on the bonnet”... but rather if REAL
SAFETY is compromised, then that’s when they
WILL step in.
With the interview finished, and me on my way, I felt allot
better about the situation (as I hope you do now) knowing that
there should be less misunderstood gripe towards what’s
been going on regarding the “Saunders issue” that
has been widely discussed on car forums and hook-ups everywhere...
because now you know some of the hard facts, strait from the
Writers advice- “If your ever pulled over by the law,
act like your in quicksand....if you struggle and fight, it
makes things worse...if you calm down and relax...its all going
to be okay”!