Getting your driving licence may have given you the freedom to zoom around the city armed with sunglasses and good music but your safety is compromised if you’ve forgotten many of the road rules you learnt for your learner’s and driving tests.
Most people develop their own driving habits as they go along, which is fine, unless they forget the important things they were taught. Despite the criticisms that have been levelled at the K53 defensive-driving system, its principles are sound. Essentially it’s a system of observation and signalling aimed at increasing safety on the road. If you’ve forgotten these safety rules you need to refresh your memory immediately!
Here are some reminders…
When it comes to driving on the shoulder of the road to the left of the yellow line, most drivers don’t know the rules. The rule is that you’re not allowed to drive to the left of the yellow line. However, there is an exception: you’re allowed to drive there to allow another vehicle to overtake, provided it’s a single-lane road. But this applies only between sunrise and sunset. Visibility must also be good for at least 150m ahead. This rule applies only when you’re being overtaken, so if you’re the one doing the overtaking, you may not drive to the left of the yellow line in order to overtake another vehicle.
Since 2000, the rules and signs for traffic circles have changed. The smaller circles are called mini-circles and the larger ones roundabouts. Vehicles approaching a roundabout must yield to all vehicles already in the roundabout that are approaching from the right and are close enough to represent a potential hazard. With mini-circles you must proceed in a clockwise direction but you must give way to cars that go past the yield sign before you do. It’s also important to indicate when you’re about to leave the traffic circle, or other drivers have to guess your next move.
Some people drive with their parking lights instead of their headlights on because they don’t realise they aren’t supposed to be used for driving. The purpose of parking lights is to illuminate your car at night when it’s parked on the road outside a parking bay, or more than 12m from a lit street light. This will help to make your stationary car visible. Some people think they’re saving battery power or the headlight filaments by using their parking lights, but it’s an illegal practice. You must have the headlights switched on when driving at night otherwise the visibility of your car is compromised.
Learner drivers know that the five-mirror check is vital for passing the driving test but many people abandon this rule as soon as they get their licences. Check the rear-view mirrors and blind spots before you signal to change lanes, turn, slow down or stop, and again before you change driving direction or speed. For the driving-licence test there are some refinements but if every driver just followed these basics this would go a long way towards improving road safety.
Traffic signs are the only way that you know what to do no matter where you’re driving. This is why they count for so many points in the learner’s exam. Some are easy to forget because you may not see them daily but it doesn’t make them any less important. So read up on them again, or visit www.trafficsigns.co.za to jog your memory.