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.

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