Driving in South Africa

the wrong side of the car

Drivers in South Africa personify irony.  Time in South Africa is both fluid and malleable.  (You can read more here).  People move slowly.  Except when they drive.  Then they are speeding maniacs.

I was driving a rented little white Toyota.  So, an unfamiliar car was one mark against me.  South Africans drive from the right side of the car and on the left side of the road, both the opposites of my last forty years of driving.  Two more marks against me.  My left hand had to shift gears, an unfamiliar task for it.  Yet another mark against me.  None of these roads were familiar, so one more mark against.  None of this would have mattered, though, if the local drivers were not nuts.

The posted speed limit on the N3, for example, is 120 kph. It’s like our interstates: smooth, wide, limited access. I was going a little under, and people were blurs as they passed me.  More than one driver tooted as he flew by because I was too slow.  I found it a little unnerving.on the wrong side of the road

This also was my experience driving all over Durban.  We got a little lost and then got different lost and then different lost again, so we saw much of greater Durban.  Drivers, pretty much without fail, jumped green lights and drove as fast as they could.  People tooted at me a lot.

By the way, drivers toot their horns in short bursts to greet folks, to get you to move, or to let you know they’re passing.  They toot in longer bursts to express their displeasure.

Drivers in Durban seem to regard traffic signs and rules as suggestions, at best.  Lanes are definitely suggestions.  “Speed limit” is a misnomer.  Tailgating fazes no one.  Creeping into the intersection before the light turns green is de rigeur.  Plus, you can turn from anywhere to anywhere at any time.

Using your turn signal is optional.  So we share that with South African drivers.

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joshinsouthafrica

Josh's work with the MCC in South Africa