South African traffic laws you think you know – but are probably wrong about

While South Africa’s road rules are pretty clear for the most part, local motorists also have many false assumptions about what they can and cannot do.

This is according to the Automobile Association (AA) South Africa, which has released a new report on some of the most common misconceptions about the rules of the road.

The AA broke down some of the top false assumptions held by motorists in SA.


Gated estate roads are private roads

A large number of gated estates in South Africa wrongly view the roads within the estate as “private” roads, the AA said.

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 cell phone as long as you are not talking on it

This is a serious misconception among South African drivers – and a major safety hazard, the AA said,

According to the NRTA, the following rules apply:

  • No driver is allowed to use a hand-held cell phone while driving.
  • A cell phone may not be used at traffic lights when the car is not moving.
  • A cell phone may not be used whilst the engine of a vehicle is running. Even if the vehicle is stationary but the engine is still running, you may not use your cell phone.
  • A cell phone may not be used for taking photos or browsing the Internet while driving.
  • In terms of the Western Cape bylaws, your cell phone will be confiscated for 24 hours if you happen to be caught using your cell phone while driving.

You can warn motorists of an upcoming roadblock

The AA noted that not only is this bad manners, but it is actually a criminal offence.

“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,” it said.

“Your actions might be warning a wanted criminal by helping them evade the long arm of the law.”


It’s okay to smoke in your car while transporting children

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.


You can transport children in the back of a bakkie 

The so-called “bakkie-taxis”, which are often the only way learners in informal areas are able to reach school, may no longer transport school children.

As of 11 May 2017 the National Road Traffic Regulation specifically states that school children may not be transported for reward in the goods compartment of a vehicle.


Read: South Africa’s new road laws will hit motorists and companies hard

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South African traffic laws you think you know – but are probably wrong about