Thursday, 17 July 2008

How to drive in Jozi

There is an old phrase that goes: “Only in South Africa…” and usually it precedes some absolutely preposterous story involving a sequence of events that would be far too unrealistic to ever appear true. However, as the phrase says, only in South Africa could these events actually take place.

It has come to my attention that the rules of driving are slightly different in Johannesburg than to anywhere else around the world. What follows is based on some personal experiences from commutes around JHB in the past week. As I said at the start – only in South Africa:

Condition of motor vehicle.
Overall vehicle condition is not considered. If you car can move forward in some way, then it is allowed on the road. Seemingly engine power is not the only means of propulsion – pushing your vehicle will also count. I have seen a few taxis being pushed by their passengers along the road. Well – the petrol price is rising, and cut backs MUST be made!!!!

Vehicle Lights – naturally, there are two parts to this – back lights and front lights.
Back lights: these are completely optional. Vehicles do not have to make themselves known to other users of the road via back lights – rather the onus is on other users of the road to see these invisible black vehicles in the dark.

Front lights: these are governed by a simple rule “The more the better” This has two major advantages. Firstly it helps you find the vehicles you have not taken back lights as an optional extra. (See item above) Second, it is a form of social status – the more lights you have the better your social standing in the community.

Overall: cars are governed by an “average” rule. Provided the AVERAGE number of working lights across both back and front of the car is about right, you will be fine.

Road markings

Apparently these are irrelevant. Seemingly some kind of massive nationwide painting experiment to test the endurance of some paints.
Thus no clear adherence is applied to any indication, information or rule that these painted road markings might be trying to convey. Fortunately, some paints are better at enduring the experiment than others it appears.

Driving on the left hand side

This is such a British way of drive, and so constrictive.
Fortunately I found two enterprising taxi drivers the other day who were sharp enough to notice that the far side pavement was open, whereas the left hand side of the road they were driving on was congested. Thus they made use of this open pavement – just GENIUS use of available land!!!!

Traffic lights

Johannesburg traffic lights have the usual three colours, but they appear to convey a slightly different message than I have been used to in the UK.
GREEN: Proceed at own pace. (Note – watch out for FROGGER players – see below)
AMBER: Proceed making use of accelerator and hooter to raise your profile to other road users.
RED: - this appears to be FROGGER mode. Whilst red would usually require vehicles to come to a stand still, FROGGER mode allows a vehicle to inch its way across a road, while avoiding traffic moving at perpendicular angle to the direction being travelled – much like the traditional computer game of the same name.


po said...

This post reminded me of so many experiences in Cape Town (I have never lived in Jozi) and it is exactly the same!

I too have seen taxis on the pavement, driving the wrong way up the highway, going at right angles to traffic, and driving in the middle of two lanes.

I never had to push a taxi, but my dad's car broke down often enough that I am an expert in pushing.

Only in SA!

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