I was driving my son to the doctor yesterday. Through the numerous ups and downs that we call Rigel Road in Pretoria, I came to a 4-way stop. I gave way to the bakkie that stopped at the intersection before me who was coming from the oncoming direction, and then started to drive into the intersection to take my turn. To my right was a young guy, probably about 19 years old in a VW Golf. He started driving into the intersection and on seeing me got very excited and started showing hand signals.
Now I’m a very analytical person and take extra care to make sure I know who stopped at a 4-way stop before me, and who arrived after me. I knew I arrived at the stop street before the teenager in his Golf. So I could not understand what he was getting excited about. I calmly drove on and turned right towards Monument Park to get the kid to the doctors in time.
I realised a few moments later that the teenies hand signs were meant to say that we should take the intersection in a clockwise order and that he is between me and the bakkie in that order. He was so confident, that it made me wonder if I’m following old-school road rules and that the rules for a 4-way stop has changed since my days of taking the drivers license test. He obviously did his test more recently than I did, so maybe, just maybe…
But alas, I was not wrong. My wife will attest to the fact that I’m never wrong. Or as she would put it: “You think you are always right!”
I googled it and the eminent authority on all things roadworthy, called Howard Dembovsky, confirmed my view that the rule has not changed and that a 4-way stop in South Africa is handled on a first-come-first-served basis.
So here was a guy getting extremely upset, probably fuming at me for 5 minutes after I left the intersection, boiling his blood pressure and risking a heart attack based on his misinterpretation of a rule of the road. He probably honestly thought it was his turn based on his clockwise order rule, and I honestly thought it was my turn based on the first-come-first-served rule. Luckily there wan’t an accident and the emotional scars are all that we are left with.
A society where we act based on a different set of rules, are bound to kill each other in high speed collisions. We are entering the Easter holiday season this weekend. Last year 156 people lost their lives on our roads and the previous year it was 287. Too many people that will not come home from their holiday breaks.
I once heard a radio interview where the speaker mentioned that awareness campaigns like our “Arrive Alive” campaign worked well in other countries where there is a good knowledge and understanding of the rules of the road. When the rules are not well known, then the campaigns have little effect. Maybe we need to bring back those TV adds I remember from my childhood where government explained to us how to drive properly and how the rules are to be applied. I still remember some of those…