Understanding road signs
When to stop and when to yield
If you drive a vehicle, it means you’ve passed a driver’s licence test that required you to know road signs.
But there are a few lesser known signs, rules and information signs. If you know how to read these signs, it’ll save you lots of money and prevent damage – and spare you from a few family fights along the way.
IT’S A MILESTONE!
Signs indicating distance and direction have come a long way. Just more than 2 000 years ago the Romans placed round stone pillars next to the road to show travellers how far from Rome they were and in which direction the city lied. The pillars were supposedly planted at intervals of one mile (that is 1,6 km).
But all roads no longer lead to Rome, and nowadays our road signs indicate more than the distance to the nearest town.
When you’re stranded next to the road in the middle of nowhere and you need to call for help, you must be able to determine roughly where you are. It won’t help if you tell the emergency personnel you’re somewhere between Richmond and Three Sisters and in the distance you can see a farm house with a blue roof.
The point of those blue signs of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is to help you explain exactly where you are. You’ll encounter them every 200m along our national roads.
They are blue with white text and the size of an A3 piece of paper (42 x 30 cm). On a dual carriageway the signs are on both sides of the road (at a 45° angle facing oncoming traffic) and on single carriageways only on the one side (parallel).
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?
People often refer to the number in the white block on the top left of the road sign that indicates an exit from the highway as an exit number. This isn’t entirely incorrect, but have you noticed that these numbers do not follow each other sequentially?
If you look closely, you’ll see some of these numbers also contain a letter. This is because the exits are “numbered” according to how far they are from the starting point of the specific highway.
Here’s an example: You’re taking the N1 north out of Cape Town, the first exit you’ll find is numbered 3, which is approximately 3km from where the N1 officially starts. (At the bottom of Buitengracht, by the entrance to the Cape Town Waterfront).
A kilometre further is exit 4, but after that you get exits 7, 10 and 13. When a single exit divides into more than one direction, each one gets a letter added to it, for example 7A or 7B.
A long road trip is so much better if you depart to your destination prepared. Here is a quick refresher course where we recap road signs, the golden rules of the road, GPSES, tyres and the age old problem of how much weight you’re allowed to place on a tow bar...
EARN YOUR STRIPES
The yellow line on the side of the road is a familiar sight, but what about the red one?
Do you know what the difference is?
A yellow line is an indication that you’re not supposed to park there, or in the case of main roads they indicate the shoulder or emergency lane.
A red line is a warming that it’s dangerous to pull over here and prohibits you from stopping under any circumstance.