A HISTORY LESSON
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.