A HIS­TORY LES­SON

Go! Drive and Camp Camp Guide - - Before You Hit The Road -

1870’s Where do you come from?

The grand­daddy of mod­ern traf­fic signs saw the light of day in the late nine­teenth cen­tury, back when cy­clists were de­scribed as peo­ple on “fast ma­chines that move qui­etly and of which the ped­dles are dif­fi­cult to con­trol and that can travel long dis­tances”. Road signs were placed for their ben­e­fit – to warn against slip­pery roads and steep hills ahead.

1903 Bad with the good.

The first se­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent in South Africa took place at a level cross­ing in the Cape when one Charles Gar­lick parked his dad’s Dar­racq in front of the Jo­han­nes­burg Ex­press trav­el­ling at full speed.

1909 All to­gether now.

The first traf­fic bosses in Paris, France, con­sid­ered stan­dar­d­is­ing traf­fic signs, and three years later the Bri­tish an­nounced four na­tional road signs that in­di­cated what the signs should look like. Shortly af­ter that nine Euro­pean coun­tries agreed to use a com­mon sign for a bump, turn, cross­ing and train cross­ing.

1971 Jo­han­nes­burg 23 km Miles be­come kilo­me­tres.

The met­ric sys­tem re­placed the Im­pe­rial sys­tem, and South Africa now mea­sured in kilo­me­tres rather than miles.

Why right? In most coun­tries in the world peo­ple drive on the right side of the road. This sup­pos­edly dates back to an era of horse-drawn wag­ons in Amer­ica, when wag­ons drawn by sev­eral pairs of horses didn’t have space for a driver on a wagon. The driver sat on the last horse at back on the left-hand side with a whip in his right hand.

To bet­ter see the on­com­ing traf­fic, they had to keep left of him, and there­fore he had to drive on the right side of the road. Why left? The Bri­tish dis­cov­ered an­cient Ro­man coach tracks in­di­cat­ing that th­ese guys ac­tu­ally pre­ferred the left side of the road. The as­sump­tion is that rid­ers kept left be­cause most of them were right-handed. They could there­fore hold the reigns in the left hand and have the right hand free to greet on­com­ing rid­ers or hold a sword

when there’s trou­ble. (Or to show rude signs to other coach­men that dis­obeyed the traf­fic rules. – Ed.)

In coun­tries like South Africa, Aus­tralia and In­dia, which pre­vi­ously were Bri­tish colonies, peo­ple still drive on the left side of the road.

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