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Speed limits and roads signs in SA: JPSA responds

2017-02-20 07:45

Justice Project SA

SPEED LIMITS IN SA: Wheels24 user Guy Drew questions average speed signs. Image: iStock


Watch the moment a rider runs wide onto a gravel section and then ironically crashes into a 50km/h speed limit sign!

Cape Town - Wheels24 reader Guy Drew sent us questions regarding road signs in South Africa.

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) responds:

Guy Drew: JPSA says there is/are no such thing as "recommended speed limits". On Van Reenens Pass on one of the extended S-bends, there is a rectangular sign showing a curvy symbol with an 80 underneath it - no red borders. I take this to be a suggestion that if a vehicle exceeds 80km/h around these bends, they could find themselves in trouble, possibly in an adjacent field.

If it's an order applying to all road users in both lanes, why isn't it a round 80 sign?

JPSA: JPSA maintains the assertion that there is no such thing as a “recommended speed limit” because of the fact that neither the National Road Traffic Regulations nor the Road Traffic Signs charts published by the Department of Transport do not cater for such things as “advisory signs”. This assertion is also intended to dispel the false belief which is held by many motorists to the effect that a temporary speed limit sign constitutes a “recommended speed limit”.

This said, the SADC Road Signs Manual (RTSM) does cater for “advisory speed limits” (and other advisory signs) and therefore such signs may be erected, provided that they comply with the SADC RTSM specifications.

Image: Supplied / JPSA

It is nonetheless very difficult to comment on the description of a road traffic sign without seeing an actual photograph thereof.

GD: Where there are temporary speed restriction signs on a national highway, maybe for roadworks, is there an obligation on the part of the contractor to re-establish the speed limit at the end of the roadworks or can he rely on hoping that the province/concession company has installed 'normal' speed limit signs?

READ: Speed signs in SA - Here's all you need to know

JPSA: There exists no legal obligation for a contractor to “re-establish” the applicable speed limit, but such contractor should (as opposed to must) indicate by means of a de-restriction sign, the end of the roadworks. On indicating the said de-restriction, the general speed limit would apply until such time as a speed limit sign indicating a speed limit to the contrary is in force appears.

Do you have any questions regarding road signs in SA? Do you have any advice for fellow readers regarding speed limits and road rules? Email us.

GD: There are sections of the N3 where you can travel up to 10km without seeing a single speed limit sign. Is there a requirement (i.e. a law) specifying a minimum distance between signs AND specifying that signs must be positioned on both sides of the road?

JPSA: No. There is in fact no obligation to erect and/or display speed limit signs unless the speed limit in question is lower, or higher than the general speed limit. In the case of a freeway, the speed limit can never be higher than the 120km/h general speed limit applicable to a freeway, but on other roads that speed limit may be higher than the 60km/h general speed limit applicable to public roads within an urban area or 100km/h general speed limit applicable to roads outside of an urban area which are not freeways.

Insofar as the question of whether speed limit signs must be erected on both sides of a multi-lane freeway goes, this is a requirement in accordance with the SADC RTSM Traffic Sign Design Manual.

Image: iStock

GD: Regarding the dangers of the speed differential, and with specific reference to the N3 road repairs in 2017, where traffic is diverted to a single lane, the speed limit is reduced to 60. On a weekend, where there are no workers on the road and no road repair vehicles in sight, it is extremely dangerous for me to "uphold" the law by maintaining 60km/h ahead of a 1km long queue.

Vehicles will drive 2 or 3 meters behind me, flashing their lights, and in some cases attempting to pass on the shoulder or attempting to force ME onto the shoulder.

80 or 90km/h is not unreasonable for these sections. Has the contractor applied his mind to what happens after he/she knocks off at 3pm on a Friday afternoon or is he/she bound by a section of the road ordinance which might also not have applied its mind?

JPSA: Firstly, let me make it quite clear that nothing in road traffic law anywhere in the world holds that a road user has the discretion to decide whether any restriction imposed on him or her is reasonable or not.

That said, I completely sympathise with Drew regarding the attitudes of other motorists driving up his exhaust pipe, the only proviso being that regardless of what any of them think and how loud they blow their hooters, such motorists are not going to pay his speeding fines for him if traffic cops do what traffic cops normally do and set up a speed camera in such zones. Just one other point, the “Road Ordinance” was repealed in 2000, when the National Road Traffic Act was proclaimed to be in force.

GD: In the case where the limit has been lowered by means of permanent signs perhaps leading up to an intersection, and the responsible organisation hasn't bothered to ensure that the 120km/h speed limit  is re-established after passing the intersection , is the road user legally obliged to maintain the reduced speed until the next full speed sign appears.

JPSA: Regrettably, as per my answer in question 2, the golden rule is that once a restriction has been applied (by means of a road traffic sign) it applies until a de-restriction sign or another road traffic sign indicating the contrary is displayed. 

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