K53 car controls & the defensive driving method

K53 car controls & the defensive driving method

Understanding the K53 car controls & the defensive driving method lays a solid foundation for how to manoeuvre a vehicle correctly.

The K53 car controls

Study the K53 car control diagram below and then read through each description for the K53 car controls & the defensive driving method. When you ready, test your knowledge.

K53 car Controls, Learners License Test, Drivers Test
K53 car controls

1. Rear-view mirror

This K53 car control is used for observing objects behind a vehicle.

2. Windscreen wipers

Windscreen wipers are used in rainy weather to keep the windshield clear or for cleaning the windshield.

3. Side mirrors

Use side mirrors for visibility of objects on either the left or right-hand side of the vehicle.

4. Steering wheel

Turns a vehicle in the direction in which it should go.

5. Indicator lever

Indicates an intention to move a vehicle in either a left or right direction.

6. Gear lever

Change gears into a higher gear, a lower gear, or reverse by using the gear lever. Use the gear lever in conjunction with the clutch.

7. Handbrake

Fully engage the handbrake control when a vehicle is stationary and parked on a decline.

8. Clutch

Fully engage the clutch to change the gear lever into a lower gear, a higher gear or reverse.

9. Brake

Make use of the brake control to slow a vehicle down or bring a vehicle to a complete stop.

10. Accelerator

Engage the accelerator control to provide a vehicle with the power to move the car forward or backwards.

11. Hooter

Use the hooter to warn other pedestrians or drivers that a vehicle is nearby. Using the hooter can help avoid a collision.

The K53 defensive driving method

K53 is a method of driving called ‘defensive driving’. It was designed to keep all road users safe and is essential to know and understand.

The defensive driving method explained.

1. Search

Be constantly looking in all directions for any potentially dangerous or hazardous condition. A hazard is anything that has the potential of causing a driver to change direction or speed suddenly.

2. Identify

Identify hazards on the road that may affect behaviour while driving. For example, keep a lookout for road repairs taking place.

3. Predict

Predict what may happen as a result of a hazardous condition, and be prepared to respond accordingly.

4. Decide

Decide on an appropriate response to the hazard that will ensure the safety of all road users.

5. Safety first

Keep a safe following distance of at least two seconds, on a dry road, between two vehicles. Increase the following distance when:

  • Visibility is poor
  • Being tailgated (a vehicle behind you that is too close to you)
  • The road is wet
  • A car is heavily loaded

The defensive driving method in practice

1. First

When signalling to move into another lane:

Observe 360º

Look to the front, left, right, and relevant mirrors to ensure it is safe all around the vehicle before signalling.

Check the blind spots.

Look over the relevant shoulder to make sure that it is safe in the ‘blind spot’.

Signal the intention to move

Use the indicator lever (see K53 car controls) to signal an intention to other road users that a vehicle is about to change lanes.

2. Second

When braking and changing gears to move into the next lane:

Observe again

Having signalled, use the mirrors to view all around the vehicle that it is still safe to move into the next lane.

Apply the brakes

Gently apply the brakes to reduce speed, if necessary.

Use the gears

Select the appropriate gear if needed.

3. Third

Lastly, when moving into the next lane:

Check the blind spots again

Look over the relevant shoulder again to make sure it is still safe.


If it is safe to do so, steer in the direction the vehicle needs to go.


If necessary, increase speed and recheck the mirrors to make sure it is safe behind the vehicle.

Rules of the road in South Africa, part one

Rules of the road in South Africa, part one

The rules of the road keep all road users safe. Following the rules also keeps you out of trouble with the law.

General rules of the road.

The general rules of the road are as follows:

  1. Police officers overrule any law of the road.
  2. Always drive on the left-hand side of any road and overtake on the right (golden rule!)
  3. If the rules of the road are not adhered to, it is a criminal offence, and prosecution of drivers may result.

Rules when using driving signals.

  • Signal an intention early enough to warn other road users.
  • Signal by using indicators, brake lights and, where necessary, hand signals. Indicate before braking.
  • Use indicators whenever the intention is to turn or move left or right into another lane.
  • Check the blind spot when changing lanes by looking over the correct shoulder.
  • Always cancel the indicator after moving into a new lane or turning left or right.

K53 Hand Signals Meanings.

Study the below illustration on the K53 hand signals meanings and how to use them:

K53 Hand Signals Meanings
K53 Hand Signals Meanings
  1. Stop – place the right arm outside the driver’s window pointing up.
  2. Turning right – put the right hand in a horizontal position outside the driver’s window.
  3. Turning left – place the right hand outside the driver’s window and rotate the wrist in an anti-clockwise direction. 
  4. Slowing down/braking – put the right hand outside the driver’s window and wave it up and down in a controlled manner.

Seat belts.

  • Drivers must wear seatbelts while driving a vehicle. They must be worn in the front and, if fitted, in the vehicle’s rear.
  • If there is no seatbelt for the front passenger seat, then children 14 years of age and younger must sit in the vehicle’s rear.
  • The vehicle may not be used on a public road if there are no seat belts in the car.
  • Passengers must wear a seat belt if a seat has a seat belt.
  • A driver may unfasten a seat belt while parking or reversing.
Rules of the road
Seatbelts must be worn when driving

Reckless and inconsiderate driving.

  • Drive off from a stationary position only if it is safe to do so without causing any danger to other traffic (remember defensive driving).
  • Do not deliberately disregard the safety of people or property when driving.
  • Do not drive recklessly or without consideration for other drivers on the road.

Emergency red triangle.

  • At least one double-sided red triangle must appear in all commercial vehicles.
  • In an emergency, the triangle must be displayed on the road at least 45 metres behind the vehicle facing oncoming traffic.
Rules of the road K53 emergency red triangle
K53 emergency red triangle

The use of lights.

  1. When driving between sunset and sunrise, always switch the headlights on.
  2. The beam must light up objects at least 100 metres ahead.
  3. If visibility is not clear for at least 150m, drivers must switch on the headlights.
  4. If traffic is approaching and the brights are on, switch them to the dimmer beam to not affect the vision of other drivers.
  5. Parking lights may be used in demarcated parking areas or when vehicles get parked 12m or more from a street light.
  6. Use the emergency warning lights (two flashing indicators) in an emergency only or when your vehicle is in a potentially hazardous position.
Rules Of The Road
Switch headlights on if visibility not clear for 150m.

Alcohol and drugs.

A driver may not sit in the driver’s seat while the vehicle’s engine runs under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Use of roads and freeways.

On a two-way road, keep as far left as possible while remaining in the correct lane not to obstruct oncoming traffic.

Rules Of The Road
Keep as far left as possible

Divided roads.

  1. If a road gets divided by open space, e.g. grass, an island, or a painted divider, keep to the left.
  2. A driver may cross a division only at an opening or intersection where a traffic officer or road sign does not prohibit it.
K53 divided roads
K53 divided roads

Speed limits.

Non-urban roads:

  1. Light motor vehicles (LMV) – 100km/h.
  2. Goods vehicles – 80km/h.
  3. Vehicles that weigh 9000kg or more – 80km/h.
Speed limits on non-urban roads.

Urban roads:

  1. 60km/h for all vehicles.


  1. Light motor vehicles – 120km/h.
  2. Buses with passengers – 100km/h.
  3. Vehicles 9000kg and more – 80km/h.

Passing and overtaking

A driver may overtake a vehicle at any place on the road, provided it is a two-lane road not prohibited by a road sign or road marking.

When overtaking a vehicle in front:

  1. Pass to the vehicle’s right, be aware of oncoming traffic and practice the defensive driving method.
  2. Keep a safe distance from the car when overtaking.
  3. Ensure the vehicle is safely clear of the car overtaken before signalling to move back into the left-hand lane.
  4. When overtaking a stationary bus, be sure to look for passengers leaving the bus.
K53 overtaking on the right
Pass right, watch for oncoming traffic move back to the left.

Overtaking on the left

A driver may overtake the vehicle in front on the left when:

  • The driver in front has indicated to turn right.
  • The road is wide enough to do so.
  • The driver does not drive on the left verge or the road’s left shoulder.
k53 overtaking on the left
Driver ‘D’ indicated to turn right. Driver ‘A’ can pass on the left without driving on the green area.

Overtaking on a two-way road

  • Do not try to overtake on the right-hand side of the road if the view is restricted.
  • Never overtake on the right-hand side when approaching the crest of a hill, rise or curve in the road.
  • Do not overtake across a solid white line.
  • Never overtake when it is prohibited by a traffic sign, signal or road marking.
  • Lastly, do not overtake at a scholar patrol or pedestrian crossing.
k53 overtaking on a two-way road
Don’t overtake if the view is restricted
k53 crossing a solid white line
Don’t overtake across a solid white line
k53 overtaking at a pedestrian crossing
No overtaking at a pedestrian crossing

Turning right

  • Before turning right, keep close to the centre of the road without touching the dividing line.
  • Keeping in the centre also allows vehicles at the rear to pass safely on the left.
Turning right
Road rules in South Africa, the second part.

Road rules in South Africa, the second part.

Road rules in South Africa, the second part covers freeways, stopping areas, how to transport goods and when a vehicle gets considered abandoned.

Allowed on freeways

A vehicle may stop on the freeway when:

  • It is within a designated stopping or parking area.
  • It is following a road sign or signal from a traffic officer.
  • There is a cause beyond control.

Not allowed on freeways

The following are not permitted on a highway:

  • Animal-drawn vehicles.
  • Animals, except inside of a car or designated parking or stopping area.
  • Bicycles.
  • Motorcycles with an engine capacity of 50cc or less.
  • Motor tricycles or quadricycles.
  • Electricity-powered motorcycles.
  • Vehicles that weigh 230kg and are specially adapted or designed for disabled people.
  • Tractors, unless they are busy with freeway maintenance or construction.
  • Pedestrians, except if they are within a reserved stopping or parking area or in an emergency beyond their control.
  • Hand signals except for a cause beyond the driver’s control.
Tractors, animals and animal drawn vehicles
are not allowed on freeways.
Pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles less than 50cc
and others are not allowed on the freeway

No stopping areas

  • When stopping is forbidden by a road sign, road marking or traffic or police officer.
  • No stopping next to or opposite construction in progress.
  • Road rules in South Africa dictate that vehicles may not stop closer than 6m to a tunnel, a subway, a bridge, or a minimised roadway.
  • No stopping vehicles closer than 9m to a pedestrian crossing unless allowing for pedestrians to cross.
  • No stops are allowed when facing oncoming traffic.
  • A vehicle may not stop next to another car where the road is narrower than 9m.
  • Within the railway reserve at a level crossing – always stop behind the solid white line. Vehicles must stop 3 metres from the reserve if no line is visible.
K53 Rules of the road
No stopping next to or opposite construction in progress.
Rules of the road
No stopping closer than 6m to a bridge.
No Stopping Pedestrian Crossing
No stopping closer than 9m
to a pedestrian crossing.
No stopping oncoming traffic
No stopping while
facing oncoming traffic.
K53 Rules of the road
No stopping next to another vehicle where the road is narrower than 9m.
No stopping closer than 3m by railway
If no line is visible stop 3m away
from a railway crossing.

Compulsory stops

According to the road rules in South Africa, vehicles must stop under the following conditions:

  • At the steady red light of a robot.
  • When approaching a stop sign.
  • If instructed by a traffic officer.
  • When stopped by someone leading or driving farm animals on the road.
  • If stopped by a scholar patrol.
  • At a pedestrian crossing where pedestrians are or about to enter the roadway.
  • If involved in a collision.
Rules of the road red light
Must stop at a steady red traffic light.
k53 control signs
Must stop when approaching a stop sign.
k53 traffic officer hand signals must stop
Must stop if instructed by a police officer.
K53 rules of the road for stopping
Must stop when instructed to
by someone leading animals
K53 rules of the road scholar patrol
Must stop if instructed to by scholar patrol.

No Parking Areas

Vehicles may not park in the following areas:

  • When a road sign or road marking demarcates a no-stopping area.
  • Where forbidden by a traffic or police officer.
  • Any wheel more than 450mm away from an urban area’s kerb or roadway edge.
  • Or within 1m of the road edge on a road outside an urban area.
  • On the road adjacent to a fire hydrant or closer than 1.5m on either side of a fire hydrant.
  • Within 5m of an intersection in an urban area unless permitted by a road sign.
  • On a two-way road narrower than 5.5m in an urban area.
  • On or partially on a sidewalk or pavement.
  • The vehicle would block the view of a road sign or road marking for other road users.
  • Over the actuating mechanism of a traffic light in an urban area.
  • On or partially on a traffic island or painted island.
  • In a pedestrian area at a mall or pedestrian lane.
  • Across or in front of a private or public vehicle entrance.

Abandoned vehicles

According to the road rules in South Africa, a vehicle may be considered abandoned and may be towed away under the following circumstances:

  • If it is illegally parked.
  • When parked for seven days or more in the same place on an urban road or the site of a testing station.
  • A vehicle parked for 24 hours or more in the same public place or street outside an urban area.
  • When found on a public road without a legal registration number.
  • If authorities cannot identify the ownership of the vehicle.
  • When dangerously parked or likely to cause an obstruction.

Conveying goods

When conveying (transporting) goods:

  • Road rules in South Africa dictate that goods must be securely fastened to the vehicle.
  • The load must not exceed half the height of cars if carried on the roof unless it is a bicycle.
  • For goods vehicles, their load must not exceed 4.3m from the ground.
  • The width of the load and the vehicle must not exceed 2.6m for vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of 12 000kg and 2.5m for all other vehicles.
  • Ensure the load does not project more than 1.8 metres beyond the vehicle’s rear.

For projections more than 150mm from the sides of the vehicle and to indicate the width of the load:

  • A driver must, during the day, fix a red flag 300mm x 300mm at each corner of the load.
  • From sunset to sunrise, use reflectors at each corner of the load—red reflectors at the back and white reflectors in the front.

Passengers are allowed on the back of a van or truck if:

  • The sides of the vehicle are 350mm above the seating surface for seated passengers.
  • Also, the sides of the vehicle are 900mm above the floor surface when passengers are standing.
  • A driver may transport one person for every 380mm as measured along the back length of the seat at seat level.
Road rules for K53, the last part

Road rules for K53, the last part

K53, road rules, the last part, cover pedestrian crossings, collisions and accidents, tyre care, rules for your engine, hooter and cellphones.

K53 road rules for pedestrians

  • Don’t suddenly enter a pedestrian crossing in a manner that makes it impossible or dangerous for a driver to give right of way in good time.
  • When there is a traffic light at a pedestrian crossing road rules stipulate you must cross only by following the robot’s signals.
  • You must not walk on the roadway if there is a sidewalk or footpath next to the road.
  • If there is no sidewalk or footpath next to the road, walk close to the edge of the right-hand side of the roadway facing oncoming traffic.
  • Be sure it is safe to cross the road before you do so.
  • Cross the road quickly without lingering and without running.
  • Do not cross a road at a place within 50 metres of a pedestrian crossing otherwise you will be breaking the K53 road rules.

Road rules for drivers

  • You must not pass or overtake a stationary vehicle at a pedestrian crossing.
  • In accordance with the K53 road rules, you must give way for pedestrians already at a pedestrian crossing.
  • If pedestrians are about to enter your half of the roadway, you must give way to them.

Collisions & accidents

First, if you are involved in a collision or accident, follow the road rules:

  • Stop your vehicle immediately.
  • See if anyone is injured.
  • If possible, assist the wounded.
  • You must observe the damage to the vehicles and the surrounding area.
  • Report the collision to a police station within 24 hours and present your driver’s license and green barcoded ID book.
  • Obtain permission from the owner, driver or other authorised people before removing any vehicles from the scene.

Secondly, if someone involved in the accident is injured or there is a fatality:

  • Get in touch with a police officer immediately.
  • Before moving a vehicle, follow the K53 road rules by first marking its position on the road surface.
  • You may not remove any vehicle unless someone is hurt or the vehicle obstructs traffic.

Finally, have the following information available:

  • Your name and address.
  • Name and address of the vehicle owner.
  • The vehicle registration numbers.
  • Your driver’s license.
  • Your car insurance details.

Tyres and road rules

  • The tread on tyres must be 1mm deep over the entire circumference.
  • In accordance with K53 road rules, the canvas cord must not be visible on the tyre’s surface.
  • Sidewalls must be free of deep cuts, lumps or bulges.
k53 tyres
K53 tyre inspection


Don’t start the engine or let the engine run in when the vehicle is:

  • Stationary and unattended.
  • Emitting excessive smoke.
  • Not under the driver’s control.
  • Being filled with fuel or if the fuel cap is not closed.


  • Only hoot for safety reasons.
  • Others must hear the hooter up to 90m away.
  • The pitch of the hooter may not vary.

Communication devices

  • Don’t hold or operate a hand-held device while driving.
  • You may use a hand-held device only if using hands-free.

General duties

  • Don’t allow any passenger, animal or object to hamper the driver’s ability to drive safely.
  • Passengers may not take hold of the steering wheel or the operating controls unless the driver can no longer drive.
  • No one must have any part of their body protruding from the vehicle except the driver when giving hand signals.
  • The driver’s seating position must allow complete vehicle control and a clear view of the road ahead.
  • Don’t allow any animal or person to occupy the roof step or running board while the vehicle is moving.
  • You cannot let anyone get into or out of a car while the car is moving.
Road signs in South Africa

Road signs in South Africa

This section covers guidance, information, regulatory, and warning signs for your South African learner’s license test.

Road sign groupings

K53 road signs get grouped into the following categories:

  1. Guidance and information signs.
  2. Regulatory signs.
  3. Warning signs.
  4. Temporary signs

Guidance and information signs

Guidance and information signs get grouped as follows:

  1. Location signs.
  2. Route marker signs.
  3. Direction signs.
  4. Tourism signs.
  5. Diagrammatic signs.
  6. Information signs.

Location signs

  • Display the name of the place you have reached or are about to arrive.
  • Some signs are grouped with a symbol to indicate the type of location.
k53 location signs
k53 location signs

Route marker signs

These signs indicate a particular route or the direction you need to travel to get to a specific route.

k53 route marker signs
k53 route marker signs

Direction signs

  • Indicate the direction to places and routes.
  • Many of these signs are combinations of several directions and route marker signs.
k53 direction
k53 direction signs

Tourism signs

Give you direction and information as a tourist on places of interest, services or rest facilities.

K53 tourism signs
K53 tourism signs

Diagrammatic signs

Indicate the pattern of traffic lanes ahead of you or important instructional information. The below sign instructs heavy goods vehicles to engage a lower gear.

k53 diagrammatic
k53 diagrammatic signs

Information signs

Display general information. The sign below indicates that a turn to the left leads to a dead end.

k53 information
k53 information signs

Regulatory road signs

Regulatory road signs are categorised as follows:

  1. Control signs.
  2. Command signs.
  3. Prohibition and limit signs.
  4. Reservation signs.
  5. Exclusive secondary signs.
  6. Comprehensive signs.
  7. De-restriction signs.

Control signs

Control the actions of a driver. The stop sign is an example of a control sign. You must bring your vehicle to a complete stop when you see a stop sign

k53 control signs
k53 control signs

Command signs

  • You must follow the indication for an action that the driver must take.
  • This sign indicates you must travel at a minimum speed of 50km/h.
K53 command
K53 command signs

Prohibition & limitation signs

  • Prohibit you from performing specific actions.
  • These signs instruct you on the limits that must be adhered to.
  • In this example, the sign is a regulatory limit sign limiting drivers to a speed of 100km/h.
k53 prohibition and limitation
k53 prohibition and limitation signs

Reservation signs

Indicate that the roadway, lane or parking area used is for certain classes of vehicles only.

k53 reservation signs
k53 reservation signs

Exclusive secondary signs

  • These signs are grouped with any regulatory sign to indicate that it applies only to that situation.
  • In this example, the exclusive secondary sign is the motorcycle illustration. It’s grouped with a regulatory limit sign.
  • The signs indicate you must drive at a speed limit of 100km/h if riding a motorcycle.
k53 exclusive secondary
k53 exclusive secondary signs

Comprehensive signs

  • Comprehensive signs indicate that you are about to enter a roadway or area governed by a complete set of rules.
  • This sign indicates you are entering a residential area and that children may be at play.
k53 comprehensive
k53 comprehensive road signs

De-restriction signs

De-restriction signs indicate that you are about to exit a roadway or area governed by a comprehensive set of rules.

K53 de-restriction
K53 de-restriction signs

Warning signs

Warning signs are categorised as follows:

  1. The direction of travel signs.
  2. Symbolic signs.
  3. Hazard warning markers.
  4. Road layout signs.

The direction of travel signs

  • Indicate the direction of travel that lies ahead by using arrows. You can see from the indicators that the direction of travel is circular.
  • In this example, the sign indicates a warning to you that there is a roundabout ahead.
k53 direction of travel
k53 direction of travel signs

Symbolic signs

  • Use symbols to indicate the nature of what lies ahead of you.
  • In this example, the symbol used is a control sign (stop).
  • The warning sign indicates there is a stop street ahead of you. This way, you are not taken by surprise by a sudden stop.
K53 symbolic
K53 symbolic road signs

Hazard warning markers

  • These markers enhance driver safety and get placed near a hazard indicating the position of the danger.
  • In this example, the risk is to the left.
k53 hazard warning markers
k53 hazard warning markers

Road layout signs

  • Indicate the layout of the road ahead.
  • In this example, the sign warns you that the two-lane road you are travelling will begin to split.
K53 road layout
K53 road layout signs
Road markings in South Africa

Road markings in South Africa

This section includes the road markings in South Africa you need to know for your South African learner’s license test.

K53 road markings get split into the following categories:

  1. Regulatory road markings.
  2. Longitudinal regulatory road markings.
  3. Exclusive parking bay symbols.
  4. Road guidance markings.
  5. Road warning markings.

Regulatory K53 road markings

Stop line

You must bring your vehicle to a complete stop just before the line.

k53 regulatory road markings
k53 regulatory road markings

Yield line

  • When you see this road marking, you must give the right of way to all vehicles that cross before you.
  • This line has the same meaning as the yield road sign.
Yield line road marking
Yield line road marking

Bus lane

The yellow dotted line indicates that the lane is for buses only.

Bus lane road marking
Bus lane road marking

Pedestrian crossing ahead

Be cautious as you approach this area and stop if pedestrians are crossing or are about to cross the road.

Pedestrian crossing
Pedestrian crossing

Box junction

You may not stop in the yellow area.

Box junction
Box junction

Longitudinal regulatory road markings

Left & right edge line

You may not drive inside the right or left edge line unless it is an emergency lane (yellow line) and you have an emergency.

Edge line road marking
Edge line road marking

Painted island

You may only drive in this area if instructed to by a police officer, in an emergency, or to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Painted island road marking
Painted island

Pedestrian crossing line

When approaching a pedestrian crossing, you may not stop in this area except if pedestrians are crossing or want to cross here.

Pedestrian crossing line
Pedestrian crossing line

Mandatory direction arrows

When you approach these arrows, you may not stop in the yellow area and must travel in the direction of the marking.

Mandatory direction arrows
Mandatory direction arrows

Exclusive parking bay markings


Only official emergency ambulance vehicles may park in the specified parking zone as indicated by the symbol.

k53 road markings exclusive parking bay symbols
Ambulance parking bay


When you see this symbol in a parking bay, it indicates that only buses may park in the specified parking zone.

Bus parking bay
Bus parking bay


This unique symbol indicates that only official diplomatic vehicles may park in this parking area.

Diplomatic parking bay
Diplomatic parking bay


You guessed it! Only minibuses may park in this parking area.

Exclusive parking mini bus
Exclusive parking mini bus

Road guidance markings

Bicycle crossing lines

Be cautious of cyclists crossing the street when you see this marking on the road. Treat this area the same as a pedestrian crossing.

Bicycle crossing lines
Bicycle crossing lines

Furcation arrows

These arrows indicate that there is going to be an increase in the number of lanes ahead.

Furcation arrows
Furcation arrows


At major intersections, you will come across these lines (represented by the dotted lines). They will assist in guiding you along the correct route at those intersections.


Road Warning Markers

Speed bump marker

You may want to slow down when you see this marker as you will be travelling over a speed bump.

speed bump
Speed bump

Arrestor bed ahead

These road markings signal drivers of heavy goods vehicles that there is an arrestor bed available. Arrestor beds are emergency stops for heavy goods vehicles.

arrestor beds
Arrestor beds

Railway crossing ahead

This big white ‘x’ on the road surface is there to encourage you to take caution as you approach a railway crossing.

railway crossing ahead
Railway crossing ahead

Yield control ahead

The triangle illustrated here has the same meaning as a yield sign. When you see this marking, you must slow down and make way for approaching traffic in front of you.

k53 yield control ahead road marking
Yield control ahead

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