The importance of understanding road signs as a driver or a road user cannot be overemphasized. These road signs are the government’s way of ensuring safety for all road users. And failure to adhere to even the minutest of any of these signs can result in an accident. Most signs are very easy to understand and do not require so many technicalities in adhering to them. These signs are usually kept in visible places to make it easy for everyone to see.
As a South African road user, who is not a driver, you should also take the responsibility of learning about these road signs and also understanding their meanings seriously, to know when a driver is endangering your life by not following rules (as a passenger in a vehicle – whether private or commercial). And it is important to note that not all road signs are for drivers, as some are for general road users.
What Are Road Signs?
According to Wikipedia, road or traffic signs are signs that are mounted by the side or above the road to provide instructions to road users. Most road signs are pictorial to make it easy for road users to understand, irrespective of their language. Also, reading a road sign and focusing on using the road can be difficult, but with pictorial road signs, you can understand the instructions with just a glance.
There are general road signs, but there are those that are unique to South Africa. Mzansi has also adopted pictorial signs, so words have been replaced with symbols and signs. This way, foreigners in the country can also understand the road signs. We should star here that the road signs in South Africa align with the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals. In South Africa, it is important for all road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers, to understand K53 road signs.
Road Signs In South Africa Have Different Categories And Come In Varying Shapes
There are three categories of road signs in South Africa, and they include the following: Warning signs, Regulatory signs, and Guide signs. These signs come in different pictorial forms and colors also. The colors for these road signs differ; however, road signs are mostly green, yellow, or red. These colors are visible and can easily be seen even from a long distance.
Another noteworthy thing you should know about road signs in South Africa is that there are temporary road signs and permanent road signs. Temporary road signs in South Africa have a yellow background, while permanent road signs have a white background. Road signs also come in different shapes; they could be triangular, circular, rectangular, square, inverted triangle, kite, etc.
Road Signs In South Africa And What They Mean
According to Wikipedia, road signs in South Africa are based on the SADC-RTSM. SADC-RTSM is a document that was created to unify traffic signs member states of the Southern Africa Development Community. Different road signs have different meanings. Here are the various categories of road signs and their symbols.
1. Warning Road Signs
Warning road signs in South Africa are placed to inform road users about the danger ahead. Usually, these warnings are triangular or have diamond-like shapes. Some warning road signs, like those that signal road users about a damaged vehicle in front, have a yellow background, while others that are permanent have a white background. There are so many road signs in this category; however, the common warning road signs in South Africa include:
Warning Signs About Wild Animals
This sign implies that wild animals are ahead.
Warning Signs About A River Bank Ahead
This sign is a signal that there is a riverbank or an unprotected jetty edge ahead.
Warning Sign About Children Crossing The Road
This warning sign implies that children are ahead; as such, drivers have to slow down.
Cross Road Warning Sign
This sign signals a driver or road user that there is a crossroad ahead.
Warning Sign To Inform You About Danger
As the name implies, this sign informs road users that the road is dangerous and may cause harm to them.
Warning Sign To Inform Road Users Of Falling Rocks Ahead
This sign informs road users that a rock ahead of them is falling so that they can either reverse or move cautiously
Warning Sign About Crosswind
Whenever you see this sign, know that there is a crosswind ahead.
Warning Road Signs About Electrical Shock
This sign is a signal that there is either a fallen electric pole ahead or a faulty electrical installation that could lead to electrocution.
Warning Sign About Slippery Roads
This warning sign alerts the driver to the possibility that the roads ahead may be slippery.
Warning Sign for A Railway Crossing Ahead
This sign indicates a railway crossing ahead, and drivers should watch out for it.
Some other Warning road signs in South Africa include:
- A Warning sign that indicates a traffic signal ahead.
- Warning sign for pedestrian crossing ahead.
- A Warning sign that indicates a series of curves ahead.
- A Warning sign that indicates two-way traffic ahead
- A Warning sign that shows there is a tunnel ahead.
- Warning sign for slow-moving heavy vehicles ahead.
- Warning sign for speed humps
- A Warning sign that indicates reduced visibility ahead.
- A Warning sign that indicates traffic congestion ahead.
- Warning sign for Roundabouts
2. Guidance Road Signs
Guidance road signs are used to notify road users of a social amenity ahead or direct them to one. Some of the amenities include hospitals, stadiums, airports, major roadways. etc. It can also be used to show distance and direction to a destination.
3. Regulatory Road Signs
Regulatory signs are road signs that inform road users about their responsibilities, like speed limits and parking instructions. Unlike other categories of road signs in South Africa, this category has other subcategories. These categories include Reservation, Control, Prohibition, Command, and Parking signs:
Reservation signs are usually blue and white, indicating that a particular parking space is reserved for specific vehicles.
These reservation signs include:
Reservation Sign for Buses Parking Space
This means that the parking space is reserved for buses.
Reservation Sign for Buses Lane
This sign means that the lane is reserved for buses.
Reservation Sign for Bicycles
This means that the lane is reserved for bicycles.
Reservation Sign for Cars
Denotes that the space is reserved for motorcars.
Reservation Sign for Motorcycles
This means that the parking space is reserved for motorcycles.
Reservation Sign for Taxis
This means that the parking space is a reserved lane for taxis.
Reservation Sign for Midi-Buses Lanes
This means that the parking space is a reserved lane for midi-buses.
Reservation Sign for Mini-buses Lanes
This signifies that the parking space is a reserved lane for mini-buses.
Reservation Sign for Goods-Carrying Vehicles
This indicates the reserved lane for vehicles that carry goods.
Reservation Sign for Construction Vehicles
This means that the parking space is reserved for construction vehicles.
Other Reservation road signs in South Africa include signs that show:
- Parking space reserved for delivery vehicles.
- Parking space reserved for vehicles carrying goods of more than 10 tonnes GVM.
- Parking space reserved for abnormal vehicles.
- Parking space reserved for vehicles that transport dangerous goods.
- Parking space reserved for tour vehicles.
- Parking space reserved for Rickshaws.
- Parking space reserved for emergency vehicles like ambulances.
- Parking space reserved for high occupancy vehicles.
Parking signs are used to notify drivers of the parking space for each type of vehicle. Typically parking signs and reservation signs look almost the same. However, the major difference is that for reservation signs, there is a bold letter ‘R’ on the sign, whereas, for parking signs, it is the letter ‘P.’ Some examples of these parking signs include:
Parking Sign for Buses
This sign means that the parking space is for buses.
Parking Sign for Bicycles
This sign denotes that the parking space is for bicycles.
Parking Sign for a Timed Space
Denotes that the parking space is available for only 60 minutes per vehicle.
Parking Sign for Motorcars
This parking sign means that only motorcars can park.
Parking Sign for Motorcycles
This sign means the parking space is for motorcycles.
Parking Sign for Taxis
This sign means that Parking is for taxis.
Parking Sign for Mini-buses
Denotes that parking space is for mini-buses.
Parking Sign for Midi-buses
This means that parking space is for midi-buses.
Parking Sign for Delivery Vehicles
This sign denotes parking space for delivery vehicles.
Parking Sign for Goods-Carrying Vehicles
This sign means the parking is for vehicles that carry goods.
Parking Sign for Construction Vehicles
This sign indicates parking space for construction vehicles.
Note: Although the Parking Signs abovelisted are accurate, the images attached are associated with Temporary Road Signs in South Africa – as it has a yellow color in the background.
Other Parking road signs in South Africa include signs that show:
- Parking space for police vehicles.
- Parking space for vehicles carrying goods of more than 10 tonnes GVM.
- Parking space for abnormal vehicles.
- Parking space for vehicles that transport dangerous goods.
- Parking space for tour vehicles.
- Parking space for Rickshaws.
- Parking space for emergency vehicles like ambulances.
- Parking space for high occupancy vehicles.
Prohibition Signs are used to inform road users about what they are not supposed to do. Some Prohibition signs include:
Prohibition Signs for Allowed Speed Limit
This sign implies that you cannot apply a speed level above 5 km/h on that road.
This sign means that the maximum speed limit on the road is 10 km/h.
Other Prohibition signs with regards to the maximum speed limit (km/h) include:
Prohibition Signs for Allowed Height and Length of Vehicle
This prohibition sign signifies that vehicles higher than 4.42 meters are not allowed on the road.
This indicates that vehicles longer than 15 meters are prohibited on the road.
Prohibition Signs for Turns
The prohibition sign tells the driver that they are not allowed to take a left turn ahead.
This sign tells the driver that talking a right turn is prohibited on that road.
This prohibition tells the driver that U-turns are not allowed.
Prohibition Signs for Overtaking
This prohibition sign says overtaking is not allowed.
This prohibition sign forbids heavy vehicles from overtaking themselves.
Prohibition Signs for Vehicle Types
This prohibition sign means that unauthorized vehicles are prohibited.
This sign says, “No abnormal vehicle is allowed on this road.”
Other Prohibition signs may include signs that prohibit:
- Construction vehicles
- Agricultural vehicles
As the name implies, Command signs are signs used to tell road users what to do. These signs include:
“Not Above 50km/h” Command Sign
This sign tells the driver that the road has a speed limit of 50km/h.
“Only 10t GVM” Command Sign
This sign implies that only vehicles with more than 10 tonnes of GVM are allowed.
“Right Turn Only” Command Sign
This sign urges the driver to make a right turn.
“Straight Ahead Only” Command Sign
This is a sign that tells the driver to keep on moving straight ahead
“Pedestrians Only” Command Sign
This sign means that only pedestrians are allowed.
“Cyclists Only” Command Sign
This sign means that only cyclists are allowed.
“Taxis Only” Command Sign
This sign means that only taxis are allowed.
“Mini-Buses Only” Command Sign
The sign indicates that only mini-buses are allowed.
“Midi-Buses Only” Command Sign
This sign indicates that only midi-buses are allowed.
“Delivery Vehicles Only” Command Sign
This sign indicates that only delivery vehicles are allowed.
Some other Command road signs include:
- “Goods vehicles exceeding 3500 kg only” Command Sign
- “Buses only” Command Sign
- “Tour buses only” Command Sign
- “Construction vehicles only” Command Sign
- “Goods vehicles exceeding 10 tonnes GVM only” Command Sign
- “Abnormal vehicles only” Command Sign
- “Switch headlamps on” Command Sign
- “Roundabout” Command Sign
- “Rickshaws only” Command Sign
- “Animal-drawn vehicles only” Command Sign
Control Signs tell road users what to do while on the road. The common control Signs include:
This sign means STOP!
This sign means the driver you allow pedestrians or just give way.
This sign means “give way at a roundabout.”
This sign implies No entry.
This sign means that the spot gives priority to pedestrians.
There are three comprehensive road signs used in South Africa. Comprehensive signs are regulatory signs that indicate to drivers that they are about to enter a road or area governed by intricate rules. An example of this is a sign that informs a driver that they are at the beginning of a residential street.
Other examples of a Comprehensive sign include:
- A sign that signals the beginning of a single carriage freeway.
- A sign that signals the beginning of a dual carriage-free way.
Selective Restriction Signs
Selective restriction signs are those signs that show what vehicles and time restrictions are applied at specific intervals.
This sign means that restrictions apply during these specific hours.
This sign means that restrictions apply diri6 these specific days and times.
This sign means that parking is allowed on the specified day and time, but with a 30-minute limit.
This sign implies that restrictions are applied during the day.
This sign shows that restrictions apply during night hours.
The purpose of de-restriction signs is to lift restrictions like the speed limit. The De-restriction signs used in South Africa include:
This sign denotes the end of a speed limit.
This sign signifies the end of a toll route.
This sign means the drivers should switch off their headlamps.
This sign shows you have come to the end of a dual carriage freeway.
This sign indicates that this is the end of a residential street.
4. Information Signs
Information signs carry information like distance to destination and the type of bus allowed to stop at a bus stop. These signs include:
This denotes a mini-bus stop for authorized mini-buses that have line numbers.
This denotes a mini-bus stop.
This sign signifies a bus stop for all buses.
This sign indicates that this is a bus stop.
These are signs that carry more than one piece of information. They include:
- Signs that show that the road has a speed limit of 120km/h in the day.
- Signs that show that the road has a speed limit, not 100km/h at night.
Temporary Road Signs in South Africa
The main thing to know about temporary road signs is that they are placed on the road for a given period, after which they are removed. These signs usually have a yellow background and are similar to all the categories and subcategories of permanent road signs that we have discussed.
There are prohibition signs, comprehensive signs, parking signs, selective restriction signs, de-restriction signs, warning signs, and information signs that are temporary. They have the same pictures and symbols as the permanent signs, but the background color is usually yellow.
Road Rules And Regulations Road Users In South Africa Should Know
Aside from knowing the road signs, to use the road safely, there are basic rules and regulations road users should be conversant with. These rules and regulations include:
- Your vehicle should be as close as possible to the left-hand side of the road.
- All passengers must put on their seatbelts.
- Vehicles with a dysfunctional brake should not be towed with a rope but with a tow bar.
- Passengers are not allowed to sit on the bonnet while a vehicle is in motion.
- Observe the road signs and do not exceed the speed limit for each road.
- The general speed limit in a town in South Africa is 60 km/h; where it varies, you will see a road sign to inform you.
- A safe following distance is regarded as a distance that allows you to stop your car all of a sudden without hitting the car in front.
- While your vehicle’s engine is running, you must not leave the vehicle unattended.
- Do not stop within 5 meters of a bridge.
- If you intend to change lane while driving, the right thing to do is to check the traffic on the other lane, indicate that you wish to change lane, then recheck the traffic before diverting.
- Do not tow a vehicle with a rope with a speed of more than 30km/h.
- The only time you can overtake a vehicle from the left-hand side is if it is turning right, and there is enough space for you to do so without moving on the shoulder of the road.
- Give way to an emergency vehicle sounding a siren.
- When a vehicle is overtaking you, keep to the left and do not increase the speed at that time.
- The minimum distance you can stop your vehicle close to a pedestrian crossing is 6 meters.
- Your dim light is not expected to shine for a distance of more than 45 meters.
- Unless you are instructed by a traffic officer or a sign, you are not supposed to stop on a freeway.
- The appropriate time to switch on your headlight is when you can only see objects less than 150 meters away from you.
- When turning right, yield to oncoming vehicles at an intersection.
- When moving towards a bridge, you cannot stop at a distance closer than 5 meters to the bridge.
- Yield to vehicles already at a traffic circle whenever you are driving at a traffic circle.
- Do not overtake a vehicle when visibility is less than 150 meters, at the top of a hill, or when you are close to a curve.
- Your hooter must have a consistent pitch.
- If your license is a learner’s license, a person with a valid driver’s license must be in the vehicle with you.
- A vehicle license is valid for a year only.
- When two vehicles are being towed, their distance should not exceed 3.5 meters.
- Tires must have a thread of at least 1 millimeters
K53 Hand Signals
As a road user in South Africa, it is also important for you to become conversant with all K53 hand signals. This is because drivers use these hand signals to make known their intentions. To use the road safely, you should be able to recognize these signs.
Thankfully, they are not difficult to memorize and recognize. These K53 hand signals include:
- Stop Hand Signal: As a driver, if you want to stop your vehicle, what you have to do is put your hands out of the window, with your palm open and your fingers held together. Do this for a while until other road users have received the signal. Road users can also use this signal to stop a vehicle.
- Right-Turn Hand Signal: To signal that you are about to take a right turn, stick your arm out as far as possible, turn your palm forward and cling your fingers together.
- Left-Turn Hand Signal: Put out your arm horizontally, let your forearm face downwards while your hands face the sky.