‘Hey, you, get outa that yellow lane!’

LES STEPHENSON
Carman’s Corner editor

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Driving to the left of the yellow line on a South African main road or freeway is illegal. Get it? ILLEGAL, though the official acceptance its use so other impatient road-users can overtake has made it commonplace.

Ours must be the only country in the world that passes a law and then gives a green light for drivers to abuse – even ignore – it. Just as the really stupid ignore the law on using a car seat-belt and making sure young children are also restrained.

The South African Automobile Association has conducted informal observational research and concluded that many drivers see the ‘yellow lane’ as just another lane – especially in heavy traffic.

YOU’RE PUTTING OTHERS IN DANGER

The organisation told The Corner in a media release: “Certain areas are worse than others but there is clear flouting of the law by many drivers. “In one part of Pretoria, for instance, more than 200 drivers used the yellow lane between 7.30 and 9am on a weekday morning.”

WATCH South African yellow-line drivers in action

Again, I get it. You’re doing yourself and the rest of the rush-hour traffic a favour by getting off the freeway as soon as possible, but you are putting other people in mortal danger. Why…?

“Because,” the AA says, “the yellow lanes are reserved for emergency vehicles.”Not only is this practice illegal, it is also dangerous as these lanes are designated for emergency vehicles only,” the AA noted.

IT COULD BE YOUR WIFE OR CHILD IN PERIL

South Africans, in my view, care little for the woes their actions on the roads might cause. Especially those driving and/or owning minibus taxis – the AA report does not state how many of which type of vehicle were involved in its “observations” but The Corner bets most of them were, indeed, such vehicles.

But now consider: unknown to you, it might be your wife, child or husband in the ambulance whose passage you’ve blocked; it could be your house or your father’s burning car that the fire tender is trying to reach.

Sadly – and another example of officials’ disgraceful behaviour – it could just be a traffic cop heading for a coffee break…

Bottom line, all the above have the potential for people to die, be permanently crippled; for the loss of an unborn baby; for grotesque burns to people trapped in a burning shack.

WHAT THE LAW ACTUALLY SAYS…

Regulation 298A of the National Road Traffic Act, the AA emphasises, states that the only time one is allowed to use the emergency lane is in a real emergency – including, of course, your own. It’s happened to me…

Some years ago my wife collapsed unconscious with, as it turned out, an adverse and unexpected reaction to new medication. Despite flashers and main beams on, and a blaring horn, there was no way I could use the road shoulder to reach the doctors’ rooms a kilometre away and no driver would give way.

Fortunately, we reached help in time and she recovered.

Using the emergency lane as a ‘passing lane’ on a freeway is not permitted, a road rule too often ignored, even on highways.

The only exception is on a single-carriageway (one lane in each direction) to allow faster traffic to pass BUT the Act clearly states that this can only be done in daylight and provided there at least 150m of visibility ahead.

This means no moving over on a blind rise, or if there is heavy rain, mist or fog. Imaging… you’re doing 100km/h and your courtesy has allowed a stream of vehicle to overtake, and as you go around a curve in the road there’s a 22-wheeler truck parked and in your way…

PLEASE, CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDES

The AA concurs with The Corner’s earlier comments by saying: “Driving in the yellow lane to pass other cars is extremely selfish and the law must be better enforced.

“Once a driver is in the emergency heshe will, eventually, have to force a way back into the traffic stream. This causes anger among drivers who follow the rules and may contribute to road rage.”

Apart from better enforcement, the AA also called on drivers to change their attitude: “Every driver wants to get to a meeting on time, be on time for a flight, catch the last half of a child’s sporting event or simply get home in time for dinner, but that doesn’t give them the right to make up the rules as they go along.”

It ‘s the duty of every driver, the AA added, to play by the or we will have a free-for-all on our roads – “a situation fast developing”.

‘TIME FOR A CLEAR MESSAGE’

The AA is calling for traffic police countrywide to deal with selfish drivers “urgently in the interests of the safety of road users and emergency crews”.

“It’s time for the authorities sent a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

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