Ever wondered what happens to cars that are seized by traffic police? What offences can get your car locked up, and what happens if your car is damaged in the process? Read on to find out!

Impounding refers to the seizure of something, usually a vehicle, when it violates the law. The owners of these vehicles then have to pay a fee to have them released from the pound.

In South Africa. only 30% of all traffic fines are ever collected. The country has seen a steady increase in unlicensed drivers and vehicles, and minibus taxis drivers are known to routinely ignore and evade paying traffic fines. The current traffic-fine system has been criticised as a way for local governments to generate revenue instead of improving road safety. Impounding vehicles serves as a stricter punishment for contravening traffic laws.

Offences that can get your vehicle impounded:

  • A parking offence causing obstruction.
  • Any vehicle deemed to be abandoned on a public road.
  • A vehicle not displaying any form of identification.
  • Buses and taxis can also be impounded for not having a permit or operating contrary to a permit.

The national government has a number of traffic laws that govern the country’s roads, but each province is able to create their own regulations for their regions, which may sometimes differ from the rest of the country: in an effort to curb the contravention of traffic laws, the Western Cape Government last year put forward a proposal to repeal the National Road Safety Act of 1972 and replace it with their own traffic laws for impounding cars, which allowed the provincial minister to set new regulations and penalties for serious traffic offences.

Other offences that may cause your car to be towed include:

  • Parking in a tow-away zone, ambulance or emergency service area.
  • Parking on a red line or no-parking area.
  • Vehicles impounded at roadblocks.
  • Unroadworthy vehicles.
  • Drunk driving.
  • Illegal street racing.
  • Vehicles with missing or false number plates.
  • Driving a motor vehicle without a valid drivers licence.

Can my vehicle be impounded for outstanding toll fees?

The short answer is no: the national roads authority, SANRAL, has stated that this is just a rumour, and that vehicles may only be removed if they are in contravention of a traffic law, or are likely to cause a danger to other motorists on that road.

Do I have to pay to have my car released from the pound?

Yes: unless your car has been stolen and left somewhere by the thieves, you are responsible for covering the costs of towing it away and storing it at the pound.

How much does it cost to have my car released from the pound?

Costs vary from province to province, but they are usually in the region of R2 500 to release the car, plus an additional R60 for each day the vehicle was stored.

Can I be stranded if they impound my car?

No: if a traffic officer impounds a car that has passengers who would be stranded at the scene, they have to arrange the necessary transport to get those people to a safe location.

What procedure do traffic officials have to follow when impounding my car?

Traffic officials have to do a thorough investigation of the car, which includes checking the vehicles condition, agetting the engine number and recording other important information. Traffic officials are obliged to let the owner of the vehicle know that their car has been impounded.

What happens if my vehicle is damaged during impounding?

The municipality can’t be held liable for any damage to your vehicle while it is impounded, unless there is negligence on the part of the council (for example, if the pound is not properly secured and your car is stolen from the pound).

What happens to my car if I don’t collect it from the pound?

If you don’t claim your vehicle within 6 months of it being impounded, the department is allowed to sell your car at an auction.

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