Posted: 10 July 2013 | Article by: Jason Sasman | Images: Various


< back

Ed NB* This article was originally published in Raceweb Online Magazine Issue 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 sense?

* 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 man himself.

• 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”!

< back

Report feedback to info@raceweb.co.za
All content on www.raceweb.co.za is copyrighted.
Web Hosting sponsored by CIRCLE Hosting