11 of the Most Misunderstood Road Rules

Every driver has to learn the road rules and pass driving tests to get their license. But as new rules are created and minor ones are underused, many of them are often forgotten or misunderstood the longer you drive.

As part of Road Rules Awareness Week, we’ve put together a list of the most commonly misunderstood road rules that every driver should be mindful of. Time to brush up!

1. Roundabouts

Indicating when entering and exiting a roundabout is something we all know to do, but many don’t bother with. It is very important though, and following some key rules when using roundabouts will make them easier to navigate and safer for you and other drivers.

  • When turning left off a roundabout, stay in the left lane and indicate left when entering and exiting. Turn off your indicator after you exit.
  • When turning right off a roundabout, stay in the right lane and indicate right when entering. Indicate left when exiting, and turn off the indicator after you exit.
  • When going straight ahead on a roundabout, you don’t need to indicate when entering. Indicate left when exiting, and turn off the indicator after you exit.
  • You can change lanes on a roundabout, as long as you follow the rules for changing lanes and check for other vehicles. 

2. Pedestrians

If pedestrians are crossing a road that you are turning into, you must give way to them before you can turn into the road. This doesn't apply on a roundabout. 

3. Mobile phones

Mobile phones cannot be used in a vehicle unless they are in a specially manufactured handset holder that doesn’t obstruct the driver’s view of the road, or if they are used without being held such as with a hands-free device or Bluetooth.

They cannot be used for text messaging, video messaging, browsing the internet or any other similar activity.

They cannot be resting on your leg, between your shoulder and face, or on any other body part.

If you need to use your mobile phone, you need to be parked off the road with the engine turned off. You cannot use your phone while stopped at traffic lights.

To use your phone as a GPS it must be fixed in a cradle.

Learner drivers and P1 drivers and riders are not permitted to use a mobile phone at all while driving. 

4. Merging

When merging from an unmarked lane, drivers travelling in the right lane must give way to those merging.

When merging from a marked lane where the land ends, drivers merging from the left lane must give way to those travelling in the right lane. 

5. Keeping Left

You must keep left on any road with multiple lanes and a speed limit over 80km/h unless you are overtaking, turning right or avoiding obstacles. If the road has a “Keep Left Unless Overtaking” sign, then you must keep left regardless of the speed limit. 

6. Headlights

Headlights and fog lights are designed to be used in certain conditions. When you are driving at night or in low visibility conditions where you would not be able to see a person dressed in dark clothing within 100m away, you must have clearly visible headlights, tail lights and – if they are fitted to your vehicle – number plate lights and clearance lights.

You cannot use high beam lights if you are driving less than 200m behind another vehicle, or within 200m of driving towards another vehicle. It is an offence to use your high beam lights to flash another driver unless you are alerting oncoming traffic of an emergency.

Fog lights can only be used when driving in fog or mist, or in other conditions with low visibility. In normal conditions you must use low or high beam lights. 

7. U-Turns

U-turns are permitted if you don’t obstruct any vehicles, and you give way to other vehicles and pedestrians. You cannot make a U-turn if there is a sign prohibiting them, or the road markings show that you can’t cross dividing lines. 

8. Following Distance

You must leave a safe following distance of at least 3 seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. 

9. Yellow Traffic Lights

You must stop at a yellow traffic light if you are at a safe distance for stopping. Penalties apply to drivers who don’t stop at a yellow traffic light when there is a safe distance to do so. 

10. Driving in Different Conditions

You should reduce your speed by at least 10km/h and increase the following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when driving in rain, sleet, hail, fog or other conditions that can make the road slippery. 

11. School Zones

You must drive at or below 40km/h through school zones at the specified times. Pupil free days are included during the school zone speed limits.