Un­der­stand­ing road signs

Go! Drive and Camp Camp Guide - - Front Page -

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.


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).


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...


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.

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