What to Do at a Roadblock
For most Malaysian drivers, the sight of a roadblock – or these days, the moment your navigation app announces that there’s a roadblock ahead – is one that quickly sends nervousness fluttering throughout our bodies.
After all, it’s hard to predict what could possibly happen at a JPJ or PDRM roadblock. More often than not, we’re not entirely sure if the authorities are looking for someone specifically, or if they’re just conducting a routine check to ensure that drivers are driving legally.
Things can take a turn for the worse if we let that nervousness get the better of us and end up doing something regrettable, as a woman in Kota Kinabalu learned recently when she tried to bribe a police officer at a roadblock.
Overcome your roadblock fears by having the right information at hand! Here’s what you need to know:
What should I do at a roadblock?
Always remember that you could text your friends or broadcast a message to other drivers to inform them that there is a roadblock ahead, but getting caught for texting while driving – especially at a roadblock – wouldn’t be a wonderful addition to the story of your life.
Instead, here are a few things that you can prioritise. And we are making the innocent assumption that you are a regular law-abiding citizen with a valid car insurance and road tax. Ahem.
Tuck away your nervousness and panic, as you would with any other emergencies or urgent situations. Taking a few deep breaths and pacing yourself mentally is important to keep your mind clear and objective, while panicking may cause the authorities to pay even more attention to you.
Know where your documents are
Always keep important documents in a part of your car that is easy to access. Make sure that your road tax is stuck on properly and you have a copy of your car registration.
You may be the most careful driver around, but not having your documents can spell trouble for you nonetheless, especially if you are asked for them at a roadblock.
Slow down or stop as required
Regardless of how much of a rush you may be in, remember that traffic police officers do have a right to stop you at a roadblock, and that ignoring this instruction is a violation of the law. Cooperate fully – and do take care to ensure that you know your rights.
If you paid close attention to the last item on the list above, you’re probably wondering at this point what set of rights we’re referring to specifically.
Fret not, for this is precisely what we’ll be exploring in the section below!
What are my rights and what should I look out for?
According to the Malaysian Bar, there are a select number of rights that drivers should always remember and exercise when dealing with a roadblock. Keeping these in mind will help keep you focused during a roadblock, and will also prevent you from panicking or behaving rashly.
Ask for identification
If the police officer who pulled you over is dressed in anything other than a uniform, ask to see his or her identification tag. If the card is red, this officer has been suspended, and has no authority to pull you over or stop you.
Take note of the officer’s details
You should especially keep an eye out for his or her name and ID number, which will be stated upfront on his or her uniform. These will be important if you have to lodge a complaint or report in future.
Unless the officer has made it explicitly clear that you are under arrest, you are not required by law to answer any questions other than those dealing with your address, your ID or MyKad number and your name. If the officers asks any other questions, politely clarify if you are under arrest.
Giving a 112 Statement
A 112 Statement is taken by police officers to help with a specific investigation. If an office requires you to furnish them with this, they will explain this to you when you are stopped at the roadblock.
In the event that you feel uncomfortable providing this statement in such a situation, you may request to have it provided at a more convenient time and place.
You can also ask for a lawyer to be present, and it is well within your rights to refuse to answer any questions that you feel unjustly associate you with criminal activities.
You should also remember to not act emotionally or out of anger when in a situation of high-sensitivity like a roadblock. Stay sharp and alert, but also do your best to keep a level mind without having to resort to personal insults or cursing.
But what about my car?
When it comes to your vehicle, there are plenty of ways for you to ensure that you do not get into trouble at a roadblock for being an irresponsible car owner – particularly if the police are on the lookout for drivers who are negligent or reckless.
Keep your car in good condition
Maintain your vehicle regularly and as needed, instead of driving with faulty parts that could prove to be dangerous, such as with damaged headlights.
Doing the latter could see you being punished under the Road Transport Act 1987 for careless and inconsiderate driving, which carries a penalty in the form of a maximum fine of RM10,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of 12 years – if not both.
Renew your road tax and car insurance
A simple glance is all they need to notice that you’re driving with an expired road tax and car insurance, and that will instantly spell trouble for you at a roadblock.
Do not add illegal modifications to your car
Sure, those lights look very pretty and their shape suits your car perfectly. But are they legal? Dealers of car parts may encourage you to purchase vehicle modifications that are not necessarily legal, so be careful not to fall for such purchases without proper research.
This includes the tinting you might apply on your car which needs to adhere to JPJ’s guidelines.
These are just a few ways to keep your car free from trouble and to ensure that you aren’t stopped for the wrong reasons at the next roadblock you encounter.
When combined with the rights you should remember and the tips on dealing with roadblocks above, you should have no trouble facing this challenge in future, so do away with those nerves.
Unless, of course, you have something to hide – like an expire car insurance and road tax - in which case, you probably should be very nervous.