AA Legal Eagle: When is it Permitted to Drive in the Yellow Lane

Obeying the law of the road is non-negotiable, and every motorist should be familiar with what the legal implications are of stepping out of line. Along with traffic laws comes a host of uncertainty, and it’s wise to know your rights. A common topic among motorists is the rules regarding travelling in the emergency lane, or inside the yellow line. When are you permitted to use it, are you obliged to move into the yellow lane if a vehicle wants to pass you on an open road, or are you within your right to continue your steady path?

The answer is simple, and clearly laid out in Regulation 298A of the National Road Traffic Act which refers to yellow lines. Legally, the only time you are allowed to use the emergency lane is if you have a real emergency, such as if your car breaks down, if you are rushing to the hospital, or need to stop immediately in the event of a medical emergency. On a freeway, the emergency lane is reserved for emergencies only like fire-fighting vehicles, emergency response vehicles, rescue vehicles and ambulances, so if you need to use it then the purpose needs to be for the same kind of reasons. Using the emergency lane as a “passing lane” on a freeway is not permitted at all.

The only exception for normal motorists is if you are travelling on a single carriageway road with one lane in each direction. In this case it is permitted to move into the emergency lane to allow faster moving cars to pass you. However, the Act clearly states that if you are moving aside to allow vehicles to pass, you can only do so during daytime hours, which means between sunrise and sunset. By law you are required to make sure that you have at least 150m of visibility ahead before you move over, so under no circumstances can you slip into the yellow line on a blind rise. Likewise, on an open road, if there is heavy rain, mist or fog that hinders visibility, the emergency lane is out of bounds as you may hit a stationery vehicle, or worse, a pedestrian.

“If used properly by all motorists it can help the flow of traffic. It is not to be used or blocked for any other reason,” says the AA.

“We receive legal questions every day from our Member base who want to know, for example, when it’s legal to travel in the emergency lane, what happens if they were fined but weren’t driving at the time, or even how to use a traffic circle properly,” says the Automobile Association. “We have a dedicated legal team on call to assist our Members in answering any motor-related questions about topics affecting them, big or small.”

Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1180

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