Please note that since this book was last published in 1997 some of the laws that have been referenced may have changed. We
are doing our best to update the articles, however, it is advisable that you to consult an attorney before relying on any information contained herein.
Nobody may erect road signs or signals, or paint lines, on a
public road, without permission. The provincial administrations,
local authorities and peri-urban authorities have the right to
erect road signs, while Spoornet has the authority to put up
signs at level crossings and on roads over which it has control.
The National Road Safety Council may erect road signs for scholar
patrols. Also, the provincial administrator or a local authority
may give clubs the authority to erect signs, for example, AA
People who erect road signs outside their property, for
instance, 'No parking' or 'No stopping', do so without authority
and are liable to prosecution - as are those who do not comply
with an official notice to remove an object that may be obscuring
an existing road traffic sign. In practice, unofficial signs may
serve as a deterrent, but they cannot be enforced by law.
Signs and their legal significance
Official road signs and markings are divided into three main
groups - regulatory (which it is an offence to disobey), warning,
and guiding or informative.
REGULATORY You can be prosecuted for ignoring
any regulatory sign, including speed restrictions, 'Stop', 'No
entry' and 'Keep left' signs. It makes no difference whether or
not it was safe to ignore the sign. Drivers have been prosecuted
for not stopping at a 'Stop' sign even though they could see the
road ahead was clear and they crossed the white line very slowly.
Courts presume that road signs are displayed correctly. If you
claim that a sign fails to conform to regulations, it is up to
you to prove this. No sign is invalid merely because of a colour
or shade variation or because it is larger than the specified
minimum size. A size variation of up to five per cent above or
below the specified size is permitted by the Road Traffic Act,
You cannot be expected to comply with a sign that for some
reason is not adequately visible - for instance, a non-reflective
sign that is not seen at night or one that is obscured by
vegetation. It is unlikely that you would be prosecuted for
ignoring such a sign.
WARNING These signs are displayed in advance
of danger or potential danger and usually signify that a
reduction of speed may be required. With the exception of the
cross-and-chevrons found at railway level crossings, they consist
of blue triangles with the apex pointing upwards, bordered with
They indicate the proximity of hazards such as animal and
pedestrian crossings, changes of road direction and road works.
The particular hazard is illustrated on the triangle by means of
white lines or a simple picture in white on the blue.
GUIDE OR INFORMATIVE These signs, usually
blue, brown or green, are rectangular or shaped as arrows to
indicate directions to hotels, airports, hospitals or police
stations or to indicate one-way roads, the beginning of freeways,
parking areas, filling stations, route markers, bus stops and
town names. On freeways or motorways, direction markers may be
seen suspended above the traffic lanes.
TEMPORARY A warning sign for farm animals
ahead displayed on a roadway is an indication that animals are
about to cross or are actually crossing the road. The sign should
be displayed at least 90m in front of the crossing place and
should be removed as soon as the crossing is complete.
Temporary signs may be used to indicate road works of various
kinds, loose stones or scholar patrols, or to warn that traffic
ahead is controlled by a hand-operated 'Stop/Go' sign. Any
temporary sign takes precedence over other road signs.
Danger ahead such as a collision or a damaged roadway may be
indicated by a 'temporary emergency flashlight' sign. This is a
flashing amber light within a red-bordered blue triangle. The
temporary police flashlight is similar, but has a blue flashing
light and gives warning of a police stop sign ahead. This is the
conventional stop sign, with the words 'Police- Polisie' in white
letters on a green rectangle beneath.
These may be used independently or to supplement a road sign.
Markings may be lines, patterns, words or colours attached to or
painted on the roadway or kerbing. Although the most common
markings are white or yellow, provision is made for the use of
black in place of white where this forms a better contrast with a
light-coloured road surface.
LINES ACROSS THE ROAD A continuous transverse
white line between the centre and the edge of the roadway means
that traffic on that side of the road must stop short of the line
and not proceed until it is safe to do so. Stop lines are laid
down only at places where traffic is required to stop by a road
traffic sign, or by a traffic officer.
A broken transverse white line between the centre and edge of
the roadway, used in conjunction with the yield sign, means that
you must yield the right of way to all traffic on the road that
is joined by the road on which you are travelling (the 'lesser'
road). The approach to a yield sign may be indicated by an
inverted white triangle painted on the roadway.
LINES ALONG THE ROAD White lines that run
along the road, dividing the traffic into lanes, are of four main
- The barrier line, an unbroken line marking lanes or the
centre of the roadway. It may replace the broken centre
line or be placed on the side of the centre line. No
wheel of any vehicle may be on the roadway to the right
of a barrier line if such a line is in the centre of a
- The 'channelising' line, an unbroken line 200 mm wide and
twice the width of the barrier line is used for
regulating traffic flow at intersections and to show
places where changes occur in the width of the roadway.
It has the same effect as the barrier line in that it may
not be crossed by any vehicle.
- A centre line, a broken white line in the approximate
centre of the road, divides the road into traffic moving
in opposite directions. Where it is safe to do so, the
centre line may be crossed in order to overtake other
vehicles, or when turning.
- A lane line, a broken white line similar to the centre
line, divides each side of the roadway into lanes for the
separation into streams of traffic travelling in the same
direction. A lane line may be crossed except where it is
immediately to the right of an unbroken barrier line.
BUS LANES During certain hours, as indicated
on the 'bus lane' traffic sign, specially demarcated lanes may be
used by buses (and often taxis) only. Other vehicles may not use
a bus lane unless it is safe for them to do so - that is, buses
must be given the right of way.
PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS Drivers must yield the
right of way to pedestrians at properly demarcated crossings.
A pedestrian crossing at or adjoining an intersection
controlled by signs or signals, or a police officer, consists of
a lane of two unbroken white lines 2m apart across the entire
roadway. The block pedestrian crossing or 'zebra crossing' is
marked in alternate bands of white and black across the roadway.
Continuous red or yellow lines parallel to the kerb indicate
areas in which parking is either prohibited or reserved for
'exclusive' vehicles such as buses or taxis. To control the
movement of traffic approaching an intersection, yellow
directional arrows, sometimes together with the words 'Only' and
'Net' or 'Slegs', may be marked within specific lanes.
It is an offence to proceed in any other direction than that
indicated in the lane on the roadway. White arrows on a roadway
are informative and yellow arrows mandatory.
It is an offence to disobey signals by police officers - their
signals overrule all other signs or markings.
Traffic lights operate in this sequence: red ('stop'), green
('go'), amber ('proceed with caution') and red again. At certain
times, such as at weekends or during the night, or when they are
out of order, traffic lights may show flashing red or amber
lights instead of a steady indication.
When faced by the flashing red light, you must stop on the
near side of the stop line and continue against the flashing red
light only when it is safe to do so. The effect of the flashing
amber light is the same as that of the yield sign: you may
proceed without stopping only if it is safe to do so.
It has been said in court that a motorist faced by a green
traffic light is as much bound to act on this signal as is the
motorist faced by the red light. However, the driver proceeding
against the green light is not automatically absolved from the
duty to keep a proper look-out.