Emergency lane driving: 'A serious matter that needs urgent attention'

Automobile Association
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 KNOW YOUR LANE:Emergency lanes along SA roads needs to be taken seriously in order to avoid disaster. Image: iStock ~ iStock

Cape Town - Despite legislation that prohibits vehicles driving in emergency lanes (yellow lane driving) the Automobile Association (AA) notes that this practice continues, with impunity it appears.

The Association conducted informal observational research on this issue and found that many drivers simply use the yellow lane as an extra lane, especially in heavy traffic.

The AA noted: "Certain areas are worse than others, but there is a clear flouting of the law by many drivers. In one area in Pretoria, for instance, we noted that more than 200 cars used the yellow lane in an hour and half period between 7.30am and 9am on a weekday morning. Not only is this practice illegal, it is dangerous as these lanes are designated for emergency vehicles only."

To be used in an emergency

The Association said emergency lanes are there to provide easy access to emergency vehicles such as ambulances, rescue vehicles and police cars, and that obstructing their route could result in people not being attended to on time.

READ: Emergency vehicles vs. blue light brigade - Here's what SA motorists should do

Regulation 298A of the National Road Traffic Act states that the only time one is allowed to use the emergency lane is if there is a real emergency. Using the emergency lane as a ‘passing lane’ on a freeway is not permitted, although this is often the case, even on highways.

The only exception is for motorists who are traveling on a single carriageway road with one lane in each direction. In this case it is permitted to move into the emergency lane to allow faster moving vehicles to pass. However, the Act clearly states that this can only be done during daytime hours. By law, drivers are required to ensure they have at least 150m of visibility ahead before moving over. This means no moving over on a blind rise, or if there is heavy rain, mist or fog that hinders visibility.

Lack of inter-personal respect

The AA said: "Driving in the yellow lane to pass other cars is an extremely selfish way of driving, and the law must be better enforced than it is at the moment. Once drivers use the emergency lane it becomes another lane on the road, and drivers then have to ‘force’ their way back into normal traffic. This in itself is the cause of much anger among drivers who follow the rules, and may contribute to road rage incidents."

Apart from better enforcement, the AA also called on drivers to change their attitudes and obey the laws of the road. Too often drivers justify their actions with a variety of reasons even though they know they are contravening the law. 

The AA said: “Every driver wants to get to their meeting on time, be on time for their flight, catch the last half of their child’s sporting event, or get home to their loved ones, but that doesn’t give them the right to make up the rules as they go along. It is the duty of every driver to play by the same rules as every else to avoid a free-for-all on our roads, a situation which is fast developing. We are concerned that this will get out of hand if left unchecked by the authorities."

The Association called on traffic police throughout the country to prioritise emergency lane driving and begin dealing with it as a matter of urgency in the interests of the safety of drivers as well as emergency personnel.

The AA concluded: “Without any action taken against them people will begin believing that there are no consequences to their bad driving habits. It’s time authorities sent a clear message that this behaviour won’t be tolerated."