You can’t use a hand held cell phone when the car engine’s running, even when the vehicle is stopped.
You can’t use a hand held cell phone when the car engine’s running, even when the vehicle is stopped.
Image: Supplied

So you think you know the rules of the road? South African road rules are pretty clear — red means stop and green means go. But what about using fog lamps or driving in heels? Motorists still harbour several misconceptions about the rules of the road.

According to the AA, here are the top assumptions motorists make about road rules, and whether they’re true or false:

Gated estate roads are private roads

False! A large number of gated estates in SA wrongly view the roads within the estate as “private” roads. These roads are in fact “public roads” in terms of the law and are regulated by the provisions of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 (NRTA). In many instances the estate’s signage and road markings also do not comply with the requirements of the NRTA and are therefore illegal.

Homeowners’ associations may put into place internal contractual conduct arrangements with residents, landowners, visitors and other road users within the estates, but these terms cannot replace the NRTA or the powers and duties of the law enforcement authorities.

It’s fine to use your cellphone as long as you are not talking on it

False! This is a serious misconception among South African drivers — and a major safety hazard.

According to the NRTA, the following rules apply:

No driver is allowed to use a hand-held cellphone while driving.

A cellphone may not be used at traffic lights when the car is not moving.

A cellphone may not be used while the engine of a vehicle is running. Even if the vehicle is stationary but the engine is still running, you may not use your cellphone.

A cellphone may not be used for taking photos or browsing the internet while driving.

Drivers may, however, use these devices through the car’s systems (ie Bluetooth) or through headgear specifically designed for such a purpose.

In terms of the Western Cape bylaws, your cellphone will be confiscated for 24 hours if you happen to be caught using it while driving.

It’s good manners to warn motorists of an upcoming roadblock

No, it’s not good manners. It’s criminal, actually. Drivers who alert fellow motorists about roadblocks by flashing their lights or posting warning messages on social media are committing an offence as they are seen to be defeating the ends of justice. Your actions might be warning a wanted criminal by helping them evade the long arm of the law.

Smoking in a car while transporting children

It’s OK if they’re your children, right? No — it’s never OK. Section 2(1)(a)(iii) of the Tobacco Products Control Act, 1993 states that “No person may smoke any tobacco product in any motor vehicle when a child under the age of 12 years is present in that vehicle”. The penalty for smoking in a car with minors could be as much as R500, according to the act.

Transporting children in the back of a bakkie for money ...

... or for any other reason, is wrong. The so-called “bakkie-taxis”, which are often the only way pupils in informal areas are able to reach school, may no longer transport schoolchildren. As of May 11 2017 the National Road Traffic Regulation 250 specifically states that schoolchildren may not be transported for reward in the goods compartment of a vehicle.

Using fog lamps in clear conditions

Some drivers illuminate them by mistake, others deliberately as some sort of “badge of honour” to show the world their car is equipped with fog lamps — in the process irritating other road users with these piercing lights.

The law states that no person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle while any fog lamp fitted to such vehicle is lit, except in conditions of poor visibility caused by snow, fog, mist, dust or smoke.

As for driving in heels? It’s not illegal, according to the NRTA, but it isn’t necessarily recommended as with anything that may impair your driving ability. Rather wear comfortable flat shoes for the drive and change to heels when you're ready to exit the vehicle.


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