This is when you’re allowed to drive in the emergency lane in South Africa

Contrary to popular belief, South African motorists are allowed to drive in the emergency-lane – but only under specific conditions, according to Eugene Herbert, MD of advanced driving instructors Masterdrive.

“There is a common perception amongst motorists that cars have right of way over trucks,” said Herbert.

“Unfortunately, many motorists believe truck drivers are obligated to move out of the way of faster vehicles. This results in an expectation that truck drivers must always drive in the emergency or yellow lane to make way for cars.”

To clarify the issue, Herbert pointed to Regulation 298A of the National Road Traffic Act which explains what drivers are and aren’t allowed to do in the yellow lane.

Ultimately, yellow lane driving is always forbidden except in certain instances:

  • If there is a genuine emergency like a breakdown, when rushing to hospital or if you need to stop suddenly for a medical or other emergency.
  • On a freeway, only emergency vehicles may use the yellow lane or motorists who face the above emergencies.

The exception

The yellow lane may never be used as a passing lane on a freeway with the following exception, noted Herbert. On single carriageways, vehicles may move into the yellow lane to allow faster moving vehicles to pass. However this too is governed by limitations.

It may only be undertaken:

  1. To allow another vehicle to overtake.
  2. If there is no chance of endangering anyone’s life.
  3. During daylight hours.
  4. If you have a clear 150m of visibility in front of you (Thus it may not be performed on a blind rise or in heavy rain or fog).

“Drivers must understand that while using the yellow lane to allow other vehicles to pass is permissible to prevent traffic from backing-up it is courteous driving, not a legal requirement,” said Herbert.

“If the driver of a truck feels moving into the yellow lane will endanger oneself or others, he is under no obligation to do so. In turn, motorists should respect that and not pressurise drivers into making dangerous decisions.”

Read: Why South Africa is not ready for electric cars

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