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You and Your Rights

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You and Your Rights

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.

Traffic Signs

The signs that keep roads safe

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 information signs.

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, 1989.

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 red.

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.

Road markings

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 types:

  • 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 two-way road.
  • 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.

Signals

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.

Disclaimer :: You and Your Rights
Although we have gone to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this database, it is important to remember that laws, government departments, interest and taxation rates are constantly changing. If you have a particularly difficult problem you are advised to consult a qualified legal authority. The publishers, editors and their representatives cannot accept responsibility for any act or omission arising from consulting the information contained herein.
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General Disclaimer: The content of Legal City does not constitute legal, tax or financial advice, nor does it necessarily reflect the views of our management, staff, shareholders, associates, contributors, authors or suppliers. Even though every endeavour has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information we cannot be held responsible for any errors and/or omissions. By using this web site you agree to accept and abide by our terms and conditions.
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