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

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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  • Comrate

    Late for work is not included, disappointing.

    • Mikhael Rowe

      My boss doesn’t believe that, so…

  • Chris

    If you have to publish an article on this, then I can only assume that people just dont know the rules of the road. But then again, you can see how many people actually just bought their licence

    • Comrate

      its pointless reading and trying to pass, they will just fail you, its like extortion….just buy it and get over and done with….

      • Danny Baromen

        I think they only fail you when you fail the test?

      • Werner Ackermann

        It’s quite possible to pass without committing fraud. I did it twice.

      • DudeWithPetLeopard

        Did my code B without paying a cent in bribes

  • tiredofthis$#!7

    Isn’t there supposed to be another exception there?

    The yellow lane is also there for minibus taxis to use anytime of the day.

    I don’t remember it being part of my K53 test manual. But with the amount of taxis using it with no legal repercussions, I am sure it must be part of the revised rules somewhere.

    • Schrödinger’s Cat

      And luxury German cars

      • Name

        Years back there was an email(joke) circulating that there was global recall issued on all BMW’s because it had been observed that their flickers are not working, when they turn or change lanes on the freeway 🙂

    • Blapartheid Zulu

      It can be used by anyone that’s black.

    • Anakin StealthVader

      You beat me to it…taxis can do ANYthing that ordinary motorists are not allowed to do – they have special permissions from the minister of transport…

      • Oran Gutan

        And blue light brigade is allowed use yellow lines.

        • MH

          Blue light bullies just take up 3 lanes if they have 3 lanes, pushing the public into the grass and barriers.

    • Colin B

      That’s the same reason I intended adding when I clicked on comments. 🙂

      It’s safer to rather move to the emergency lane and lettem pass.

    • The worst is when you are actually in an emergency and people try to push into the lane just to block you as if you are doing something wrong. Aka citizen police

  • Ganralf

    One I wonder about, on a single carriage way when the vehicle in front of you is turning right and has to wait for oncoming traffic, is it allowed to “overtake” said vehicle on the left using the emergency lane?

    • Wollie Verstege

      I suppose yes, subject to points 2, 3 and 4 above.

  • Activ8

    I actually laughed when I saw “Courteous” and “truck driver” in the same sentence (without a “not” in sight) – There is no such thing, most truck drivers (and also taxi drivers for that matter) suffer from excessive-testosterone-coupled-with-reduced-adequacy-in-the-“male-parts” syndrome, which, while medically improbable, nonetheless displays itself in their constant aggressiveness and competitiveness on the road. -“Bad luck dude – that is a truck, there is no ways on this earth that you are going to beat a hot German coupe without resorting to driving that threatens not only your life, but that of a lot of other road users. – Be content to be second in line..and let people live.” I wonder if they say this as part of driver training? – Oh wait !! Do we have driver training in SA? Methinks not. And that, my fellow threadmates, is why we will always consider the yellow line as “just another lane” 🙂

    • Ray Mulder

      First you said there was “no such thing” as a courteous truck driver… Then you immediately said “most” of them… Did you not mean All?… Personally I know you are wrong because I have come across some very courteous truck drivers on the highway, who give way to traffic etc.. So go spin your stereotype negative mindset elsewhere please.

      • Activ8

        The “most” applied to the number afflicted by the supposed medical condition.. my opinion on courtesy and whom it applies to, negative or otherwise, still stands. 🙂

    • I disagree with your comment about truck drivers. I have seen plenty of courteous truck drivers on the roads, and to be fair, have seldomly seen them in the yellow lane illegally. Truck drivers often let people in, particularly in traffic. Perhaps you should take a look at yourself, and understand that maybe if you had not been putting your foot flat on the accelerator, he would not have been forced to cut you off? Afterall, who likes to let a truck in? Are they supposed to wait for all traffic to disappear before dodgying a broken down vehicle or other obstacle?

      • Werner Ackermann

        Few people are as thankful as a truck driver being given a gap. And few things reveal selfish drivers as quickly as a car in front of them giving a truck a gap.

    • Konstabel Koekemoer

      Activ8, your comment is total rubbish. Long distance truck drivers in South Africa and in fact all over southern Africa are mostly very curteous and often go out of their way to help faster vehicles pass. Problem is that there are selfish idiots out there, like yourself, who do not let the trucks back into the driving lane when it is no longer safe for them to be in the emergency lane. This is also why some transport companies instruct deivers not to move over.

    • DudeWithPetLeopard

      I’ve actually come across “courtious” truck drivers before

    • Ab Irato

      Most of the truck drivers that do not move over are under instruction from their bosses. They want to move but will get fired if doing so. Just check the back of the truck – usually there is a sticker advising the truck is not allowed to go into the yellow line. Our anger should be vented at the bosses of the transport companies – not the drivers. Admitted, there are some exceptions…

  • NotSpam

    Always move to the yellow lane to allow Blue lights and BMW drivers to pass.

    • Danny Baromen

      No man… come now… don’t you know you’re supposed to remove your vehicle completely from the roadway for the beemers, mercs and blue light vehicles???

  • Joe Black

    I get so annoyed when I’m driving on the highway up a hill and some idiot in front of me goes into the emergency lane to “be nice and let me pass”. Don’t do it! What I see in my mind is: Big rock or car standing still in the emergency lane right after the hill’s summit, car in front of me can’t stop in time, hits it at 80km an hour, flips right over, bits of the till recently immobile object flying everywhere, people flying out of the windows. Or if I were to rhetorically pass: “Object in the way, as I pass car swerves to avoid object. Pushes me into oncoming traffic.”

    These things do not happen often, but they happen. Don’t do it! I can wait for an adequate opportunity. No problem! I actually often pull back in situations like that. When that accident happens I want to be well back and able to brake in time.

    And if you think I’m over-cautious. That accident has to happen just once for me to have saved my own life and those of any passengers I might have with me.

    • Hennie

      I agree with you totally. I only go into the yellow line when it is absolutely safe to do so. I had idiots hooting at me to move over when I do not feel that it is safe to do so.
      As a rule I will always move over if it is safe to do so. You get idiots who never move over because they believe that it is against the law or they do it out of spite.

    • Gerrie Ferreira

      You’re a fool man. I’ve hardly heard a more stupid remark in my life.

      • Gerrit Kellerman

        And you’re one of the reasons we have one of the highest accident rates in the world

      • bengine

        Try reciting your own to yourself.

      • LuSypher

        That’s because you are probably deaf and are not able to hear anything . . .

      • Visionery1 .

        He’s absolutely right! To have a truck/car pull into the emergency lane on a hill to let you pass without seeing what’s in the lane after the summit of the rise, that’s just plain stupid. What if you’re broken down … your car started overheating as you reached the top of the hill, you then pull over on the other side of the hill to check things out. The truck comes over the hill in the emergency lane and sees you… he can either drive into you, or swerve into the cars next to him, knocking them into oncoming traffic. It’s a disaster, no matter how you look at it!

    • bengine

      Spot on. There is this perception that has developed that if I am on your tail you have to move over irrespective of conditions. I also deliberately hang back when a “nice” person moves over in a dangerous situation. Not only for my own safety but for whoever happens to be walking or stopped around the corner or over the hill – there needs to be space for the inevitable swerve.

    • Wari Murphy

      What you say is purely common sense. Unfortunately…

      • LuSypher

        Sadly, “common sense” isn’t common – it’s rare . . .

        • Wari Murphy

          Rockinghorseshit, hen’s teeth, politician’s integrity

  • Selwyn

    More than most behave on the road. It is the stupidity of a few that makes it look as though the majority of SA drivers are stupid hooligans. These are the idiots that appear to be a major part of road users. They are a major part of our road problems!!!.

  • WilliamH

    When talking about road rules and regulations it would be a lot better to actually quote and reference sections of the national road traffic act (like for example section 298A that he ‘pointed’ to) and the like when offering advice.

    Whilst I’d like to believe that Mr Herbert is well versed in every line of the act and summarises them exactly as they were written, I’m not sure why the staff writer would just take his word for it.

    This article, in its current form, just adds another opinion/interpretation to the already over opinionated conversation on road manners which is historically self serving and often ill informed (but not always, but who knows?)

    This becomes very relevant if the advice in the article is followed at face value and an incident does occur on the road, or you are pulled over and accused of an offence.

  • Qazinix

    The problem on our roads isn’t just a lack of knowledge with regards to the rules of the road, it also includes the total disrespect for other drivers lives.
    The problem I experience every night as I drive home in the dark, driving about 100kmh, I get pushed into the yellow lane by trucks with little yellow 80kmh stickers on them.
    Where is the respect? I have started recording my trips, a few nights ago I had just over 20 trucks do this. The one’s with “How’s my driving” stickers, I reported.
    Hopefully there will be a safer road sometime.

  • An article on the legality of motor bikes between cars and/or the law that you need must overtake on the right would be great

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