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Traffic Signs and Rules for Safety on the Road

Safety - 11 June 2019

Assortment of round, regulatory road signsThey populate the sides of quiet suburban streets, stand at busy intersections and loom large over multi-lane highways. But the traffic signs you see on South Africa’s roads aren’t merely aesthetic. They’re there to warn you of potential dangers and to give important instructions that will keep you, your passengers and other road users safe.

Whether you’re a new driver or a parent wanting to educate your children, this article explains:

  • The value of traffic signs
  • How they work hand-in-hand with our road rules
  • The different shapes and colours they come in
  • Why it’s important for children to be able to interpret and respect them

Why are Traffic Signs Important?

Traffic signs provide valuable information to drivers and other road users. They represent rules that are in place to keep you safe, and help to communicate messages to drivers and pedestrians that can maintain order and reduce accidents. Neglecting them can be dangerous.

Most signs make use of pictures, rather than words, so that they are easy to understand and can be interpreted by people who speak a variety of languages. For this reason, it’s important that you know what each picture represents, and that you use them to inform your driving. Failing to do so could result in a serious accident or a fine.

What Do the Different Traffic Signs Mean?

Traffic signs come in a variety of shapes and colours, and each has a specific meaning. The different shapes and colours are there to help you identify a sign as quickly as possible, without interrupting your driving.

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, the various road traffic signs are classified into four main groups and sub-categories, for example:

  1. Regulatory: Control/Command/Prohibition/Reservation
  2. Warning: Road Layout/Direction of Movement
  3. Guidance: Location/Route Markers/Direction
  4. Temporary: Command/Prohibition

The following examples are signs you might find on the roads while you drive:

Category

Description

Example

Regulatory: control

To give you very specific instructions

A round red sign with a white bar across it means no entry
Stop Sign

Regulatory: command

To tell you to drive in a certain way

A blue sign with a taxi on it means that only taxis may use that lane or area
Taxi Sign

Regulatory: prohibition

To prohibit you from driving in a certain way

A round prohibition sign with a red line through an arrow pointing right means that there is no right turn allowed
Right Turn Allowed

Regulatory: reservation

To inform you that a particular lane or area may only be used by a certain type of vehicle

A vertical rectangular sign with a bus on it means only buses may use that lane or area
Buses Lane

Warning: road layout

To warn you of changes in the layout of the road

A triangular warning sign with a “T” on it is informing you that there is a T-junction up ahead
T-Junction

Warning: direction of movement

To warn you to anticipate something up ahead

A triangular sign with a bicycle on it is telling you to anticipate cyclists
Cyclist

Guidance: location

To let you know where you are

A white sign with a name and the highway symbol lets you know what highway you are travelling on
Ben Schoeman

Guidance: route markers

To give you information about the route you are travelling on

A green sign with the names of nearby towns and numbers lets you know how far you are away from these places in kilometres
Route Markers

Guidance:

tourism

To inform you of nearby attractions and places of interest

A brown sign with the head of a kudu on it is used to indicate that you are approaching one of South Africa’s national parks
Tourism

Temporary: prohibition

To warn you that you are temporarily prohibited from driving in a certain way

A yellow sign with the number “100” in it and a red circle around the edge means that a speed limit of 100km/h has been temporarily introduced and may not be exceeded
Temporary Prohibition

Temporary: warning

To give instructions when a portion of road is under construction or if there is an accident scene

A yellow sign with a man digging means that you should expect construction work up ahead
Construction Work Up Ahead

For more information, see here for a comprehensive list of South African road signs.

What Do Speed Signs Look Like?

Speed signs are some of the most important and common traffic signs you’ll find on the roads, and it’s crucial that you obey them. Speed signs are round signs with a red circle around the edge and a black number inside. The number indicates the maximum speed (in kilometres per hour) you are permitted to drive in that area. It applies until you see another sign, indicating that the limit has changed. As you leave a major city, you’ll likely find that the numbers on speed signs go up from 60 to 80 to 100 and finally 120, which is the maximum speed limit on South Africa’s highways.

Round signs that have a blue background and a number written in white inside them indicate the minimum speed limit in that area. A blue sign with the number 50 written in it means that you cannot driver slower then 50km/h no matter which lane you are travelling in.

Why Should You Teach Your Children about Road Signs?

Even if your children aren’t old enough to drive just yet, it’s important that they know how to recognise and interpret the traffic signs around them. Many signs apply not only to drivers, but to pedestrians too, and children who are able to read these signs correctly are more likely to stay safe as they walk along and cross South Africa’s roads.

Teach your children what stop and pedestrian crossing signs look like, as well as any signs that are found near their schools and playgrounds. Children also need to know that just because these signs are in place, it doesn’t mean they can walk across a road without looking. They have to respect cars and other vehicles, and must always look left and right.

Remember, too, that children learn how to behave on the roads from their parents – they’re watching your every move. The better you adhere to traffic signs, and the more carefully you drive, the more likely your children are to become safe and responsible drivers as adults.

There are countless signs on South Africa’s roads, some of which are more common than others, but all of which are important. Any additional information you would like to know about them can be found in the K53 driver licence manual and on the Get Your Learners website. If there are any that you are unfamiliar with, make sure you educate yourself today for your safety and the safety of everyone else.

At Supa Quick, we’re passionate about keeping South African families safe on the road. Visit your nearest dealer and ask for a free vehicle safety check.

Disclaimer:This information is for educational or entertainment purposes only. The views expressed here are not that of Supa Quick. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information on this site is at your own risk. We will not be liable for any losses and damages in connection with the content on this site.

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