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Being driven around the bend

Bad driver b

Every country in the world has its own culture (or blend of cultures), and customs. Similarly, every country has a unique type of driver who displays certain behaviour when on the road.  It is hopefully true that every country has its good drivers too, who behaves according to the rules of the road.

In South Africa we also have good drivers, but sometimes they so do not seem to be representative of the majority of drivers in the country. There are also specific driver profiles that can be observed, often linked to the brand of car they drive. Ever heard of those BMW drivers?

Pass which side?

Let’s start with the “keep right, pass left” profile. In South Africa we drive on the left, and you’ll be forgiven for mistakenly thinking the opposite when you use a highway.

These drivers stick to the right hand lane with dogged determination. At best, they will wait until you have been sitting on their tail for a few minutes before faking surprise and slowly moving over. “Oh, I didn’t see there was a car behind me. I kept checking my left mirror, but only saw an empty lane.

This idiot is anyway so close on my tail that there was no possible way of seeing him in my rear view mirror.” Often, once they have grudgingly moved to the left, they will move back into the right hand lane as soon as you’ve passed them. “It’s what the fast lane is for, or what?”

Stop where?

I almost failed my driver’s test when I stopped at an intersection with the front wheels millimetres over the white line. Maybe that’s why I cannot stop being fascinated by how many South African drivers stop after and not before the white line at an intersection.

Many take it to the extreme of stopping with all four wheels after the white line. At least with these, pedestrians can cross behind their vehicle and still stick to the pedestrian lane, which is impossible with others who stop right across the pedestrian lane.

Our traffic system is partly to blame for this – there is always a second set of traffic lights at an interaction, unlike some other countries where you will not be able to see the single set of lights unless you stop before the white line. (Imagine how much power and upkeep can be saved by removing the second set everywhere?)

Keep up the pace

Speeding is a favourite pastime for many South African drivers. Millions of fines remain unpaid – money that can be well spent on urgent matters such as education and health services. Be prepared to be almost run over if you stick to the speed limit anywhere. The other extreme is driving too slowly – yes, there are those drivers too (and of course, some do it in the right hand lane).

One learns quickly how these slow pokes behave when they approach a traffic light.  They will crawl along and you know the light is going to go red any second now, because you know the intersection intimately.

If things do not speed up, we will all be caught. Wrong! When the light changes, Slow Poke hammers the pedal and flies through the orange light, often above the speed limit, leaving you behind to sit it out.

Some of these driver profiles may exist elsewhere in the world, but they are just a few of many that can be consider uniquely South African. Visitors, don’t be put off driving – South Africa has wonderful roads in good condition that wind through spectacular scenery. Hire that car and drive!