Cape Town - For those who have long since acquired that little piece of plastic permitting you to be behind the wheel of a car, driving feels a lot like second nature. As such, it’s something done with little thought, and, in many cases, very little heed to legality.
MiWay's Nthabiseng Moloi says while it might be easy to parallel park effectively and stay within the speed limit most of the time, many drivers either fail to heed or simply don’t understand all the rules of the road, something that can end up jeopardising the safety of all concerned.
"If you’ve ever wondered whether you should really be driving in the yellow lane or been surprised by a near-miss at a traffic circle, here’s a quick crash course on some of the most commonly broken traffic laws and how to avoid them."
1 Amber doesn’t mean ‘go faster’
Too many drivers treat the amber traffic signal as an invitation to tempt fate, rather than a calm suggestion to slow things down. In many instances, attempts to outrace the robot’s return to red in fact sees drivers running a red light, something that all too often ends in fatal collisions.
In certain instances, particularly in high crime zones where safety is a concern (especially during night time driving), you might wish to disregard traffic signals, but if you’re feeling under threat, it’s still vital that you check all oncoming traffic before heading to safety.
2 Steer clear of pedestrians
Just because a car is larger than a human doesn’t mean the car always has right of way. Drivers tend to think the greater size implies a pecking order, but in some cases it’s in fact pedestrians who take precedence.
Ignoring pedestrian crossings or turning at an intersection without any regard for those crossing the road is not only illegal, but also extremely dangerous, so make sure you pay close attention to traffic signs and slow down where appropriate.
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Remember, irrespective of the cause, you’ll still find yourself in a world of legal trouble should you knock down a pedestrian, so stay alert at all times.
3 Give way in a traffic circle
Despite being a mainstay on South African roads for many decades, traffic circles remain a great mystery to the vast majority of drivers, resulting in many unfriendly exchanges and fender benders. However, the basic guiding principle is extremely simple: always give way to cars approaching from the right.
In addition, you’ll avoid a lot of hooting and shouting by simply activating your indicator to suggest where you’ll be turning, thus alerting your fellow drivers and allowing them to move accordingly.
Only in smaller circles would the driver who reaches the roundabout first have right of way.
4 Put away your cellphone
Countless studies suggesting a high correlation between cellphone usage and road deaths, yet very few people appear deterred. As such, mobile usage on the road remains a massive problem. If you feel compelled to get in touch between Points A and B, ensure you have a fully functional hands-free kit or Bluetooth system installed that allows you to clearly see all road signs and pay close attention to fellow drivers and pedestrians.
If you’re using your phone for its GPS functionality, make sure it’s mounted somewhere that doesn’t obscure your visibility or compromise you in any way.
READ: Here's how the Western Cape plans to make the roads safer this festive season
5 Merge calmly
Bottlenecks tend to occur in places where lanes are reduced, as drivers compete for pole position in an imaginary race to the newly narrowed space. Essentially, whether you’re in the lane that’s merging or being merged into, you should give way to the car before you, as this will allow for an easier flow of traffic.
Yes, it might initially cost you 2 or 3 seconds, but it’ll end up saving you and your fellow drivers plenty of time in the long run.
6 Keep a safe following distance
This is a concept much spoken about, but very poorly understood. Essentially, by putting at least 20m between you and the motorist in front of you, you can avoid the possibility of an accident in cases where sudden braking is required. Without this buffer between vehicles, an unexpected swerve or hard brake can escalate into a full-blown pile up, so make sure you don’t drive up your fellow motorists’ tails.
Remember, if you’re unsure as to the legality of your actions on the road, always take the path of caution, and pay close attention to your fellow drivers and pedestrians. If you obey road signs and traffic signals and do not endanger the lives of others, you’re likely to be on the right side of the law.
7 Stay in the right lane
Many Wheels24 readers have written in to us requesting for other road users to stay in their correct lanes as it will help reduce traffic congestion. If you're driving slower than the required speed limit, keep in the left lane. If you're driving faster, then pass to the right lane. It's a basic road rule that many users ignore.
Also, when approaching a road accident don't slow down to take a look, as this is one of the biggest reasons for congested roads.
George Kleynhans: Can you guys at licencing teach the K53 drivers that the rule if the road is "Keep Left Pass Right".
Zagryda Nicol: Learner drivers are never taught to apply the 'drive left, pass right' principle. It is not mentioned in the handbook, instructed by driving school teachers or tested by traffic dept officials. The number of youngsters driving slow in the fast lane is ever increasing and it leads to frustration and possible dangerous driving.