The lines have been drawn ... stay in your lane!

Driving is a skill that many of us would like to believe we have mastered. Yes, you may have been driving for a while now, but just having that piece of paper or card officially proving that you are a legal driver doesn’t mean that you are doing the right thing and you know what you’re doing on the road.

For instance -  do you know when you are allowed to be driving in the yellow lane? How do you indicate when using a traffic circle?

With thousands of drivers on our roads every day, it is easy for many of us to fall into the trap of making mistakes that jeopardise our road safety and that of others around us. You may consider yourself a safe driver - and indeed it may be so – however, not everyone on the road drives the way you do - thus requiring you to be alert at all times, as someone else may not be obeying the rules of the road.

We’ve put together a list of the most commonly broken road rules – some of which you probably aren’t even aware you are breaking.

  • Skipping traffic lights: Many of us are guilty of increasing our speed when the traffic light goes from green to amber in the attempt to beat it before it goes red – believe it or not, this is wrong.

    When approaching a traffic light that turns amber, it is best to start slowing down for a safe stop as opposed to stepping on the accelerator. In a poll done by Wheels24, 7 836 drivers admitted to skipping a traffic light late at night, while 509 drivers admitted to skipping it only if they are driving too fast and 652 drivers stating that they only do so when they are in a rush.Skipping a traffic light can have fatal consequences, like a recent crash in Gauteng which resulted in 4 fatalities.

    There is the odd occasion where you may be questioning your safety and you feel that you are forced to react by skipping a red light – even in such situations, it is strongly advised to check your surroundings to ensure that your actions will not endanger others.
  • Giving way to pedestrians: Often as drivers, we think we have the upper hand on the road and pedestrians will wait – as they can see us coming – but this isn’t always true.

    When turning at an intersection, drivers should give way to pedestrians crossing the road, whether there is a traffic light or not. Always be on the lookout for pedestrians when driving in residential areas; remember to stop at pedestrian crossings and stop signs to allow pedestrians to cross safely without having to weave between cars.
  • Using a traffic circle:

    Using a traffic circle is really not as complicated as drivers make it out to be, yet it’s one of the places that almost always involve honking and unfriendly exchanges on the road. The most important thing to remember (yet is always forgotten) is to give way to cars approaching from the right. Use your indicator at a traffic circle to notify the other drivers where you are going and what action you are about to take. For an illustrated example, see our video “How to use a single lane traffic circle

  • Using a cell phone:

    The usage of mobile phones while driving is a constant battle that the authorities are trying hard to get rid of. “It’s just a quick call/text” or “I can still see the road and they can see me” are lines we hear a lot from people who are using their phones while driving. The only time you should be using your phone while driving is through voice activation or hands-free kits or the use of Bluetooth technology. When using the GPS function on your phone, it should not be in your hand but preferably on a mount where you can secure it and still be able to view the road, directions and hear the voice prompts clearly.

  • Merging lanes: When driving on a road where the lanes merge and are reduced, it is very easy to get confused and drift back and forth not knowing who should go first. How many of us know the proper merge process? When you find yourself in this situation, you should merge by giving way to the car that is ahead of you – this means you shouldn’t step on that accelerator to beat them and close the gap! On the other hand, if you are coming from the lane that is being merged into an already existing one, you must give way to any car already driving in that direction and wait for a safe gap to switch into the lane. This is called a “zipper merge” (cars interleave, like a zip).
  • Making a ‘quick’ U-Turn: Many of us are fault for making a U-turn in areas we shouldn’t be or without being fully aware of our surroundings. When making a U-turn in any situation or area, as a driver you need to have a clear view of your surrounding and what is happening. Before making a U-turn, you need to make way for all pedestrians and vehicles in that particular direction. There are areas where U-turns are not permitted at all!  The area where this rule is most commonly broken is at a traffic light where there is a clear “No U-turn” sign, but highways are also “no U-turn” areas (for good reason).
  • Following distance: What exactly does it mean to keep a safe following distance? Many of us use the gaps between cars as opportunities to swerve into the lane flowing quicker than the one we’re in. There is no logic in being right on the tail of the car ahead of you. Keeping a safe following distance allows you enough time to slow down and brake gently; in bad weather or road conditions, increase this following distance! Keep a safe following distance so that you are able to assess what is happening around you and react appropriately.
  • School zones: When driving in an area close to or around a school, you are required to drive within the specified speed limit to ensure the safety of the school children that could be walking and crossing the street. There is usually a sign that will indicate a school zone.

Following road rules will prevent you from making unnecessary claims on your car insurance as you will be driving cautiously. At all times, make sure that whatever action you take while driving, even if it’s a legal move, it doesn’t infringe on the safety of other road users or compromise your own. Be safe on the roads and arrive alive!

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