March 3, 2011

DOs and DONT's in Joburg Traffic

DO beware of potholes; they're everywhere, and they're deep. And new tires, if you'll remember, are expensive!

DON'T be afraid of the street vendors; they often have something useful to sell - even if it's just entertainment - and I've never had any bad experiences.

DO stop at a light (robot) that's not working, as in that case it reverts to a four-way stop. However, I've lately struggled with the robot coming onto William Nicol from Dainfern, which is HALF-working. It is either green or out, making this very hazardous if you assume it's your turn after stopping briefly, but it's actually green for the other side. If you think this would get fixed after a day or two, you are mistaken. It's been like this for weeks, but maybe no one has actually reported it because you don't want to waste your time with another government agency.

Robot/traffic light on "green" CROSSING William Nicol

Same robot on "out" while "green" for traffic ON William Nicol 
DON'T get distracted by the sights you see, wondering whether the guy or the stuff will fall off first.

DON'T follow a Toyota minibus taxi too closely; they're prone to brake and pull over very suddenly.

DON'T get annoyed by those same minibus taxis overtaking you off the road on your left; that's just the way it is.

DON'T bribe the cops but rather insist on a regular ticket; you'll almost always get off, in fact, you probably didn't do anything wrong in the first place. See Have You Brought Anything for us Today.

DO purchase a car with smash-and-grab protection or retrofit it afterwards.

DON'T drive up closely to the car in front of you at a robot at night; you want to leave enough space as to not be blocked in. I've never had a any problems with this but you do hear stories. Telltale signs of smash-and-grab danger spots are bricks and/or shattered glass laying around, and I've also seen signs for "hijacking hotspot" on the way to Hartebeespoort Dam. 

DO watch for the blinking green arrow on a right turn; it is easy to miss and then you'll have some angry people behind you.

DO keep 2-Rand coins in your car to tip parking attendants; they're at every shopping center and even though they'll likely wave from behind your car where you can't see them to "help" you get out of a parking space, they'll be very grateful for your money. They're also supposed to guard your car and will help you load your groceries in your trunk (boot).

For more on traffic in Johannesburg, click here.


Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

Most of this is good advice for other African cities as well! There's a cultural element to traffic, and when living in a foreign country you'd better learn the way it works and go with the flow, rather than trying to be "right" according to your own home country rules, because you will get into trouble for sure.

Anonymous said...

I would also add to be careful of obstacles in the road (ie. rocks, debris, even people pretending to be injured) as criminals will use these to highjack your car. When you exit the car (usually leaving the keys in the ignition) to remove the obstacle or check on the person, they just jump in and drive off. A friend of mine had this happen and her children were still in the car (thankfully the police caught the crooks and the girls were safe, but it was a terrifying experience)! As far as I know, this type of trap usually occurs in rural/isolated areas at night, but I suppose it could happen anywhere. Just another example of ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings.

Sine said...

Very good point. How horrifying that must have been for your friend. It's pretty much a rule here not to drive up close to anything that could potentially block your way, be it other cars or people or bricks. Also, if you see bricks scattered on the side of the road, or plastic bags that could have bricks in them, remember that intersection as a likely smash-and-grab spot and don't go near again, or at least definitely not at night.

Having said that, it's also important not to suspect everyone and everything. The wide majority of people here are law-abiding and just as terrified of crime as all of us, and will go out of their way to help you if you're ever in need.

Jozie Days said...

Another DO I would like to add. I usually pop into the bank at Lonehill - it is very quiet, no queues and exchange a R100 note for R2 coins and then I put them in a little tin in the car (yes, I know - one more thing to take out when your car goes for a service!) I normally tip the guards that greet me and help with loading groceries into the car. I give them the tip once they have 'helped' me to reverse without running over people jaywalking or other cars where the occupants are on their cell phones. Sometimes I tip R5 if I have been in the shops a long time or I have a large load of shopping and they have enthusiastically rushed over to help while I am making my way to the car.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Solid advice all around! It must be hard to keep your cool in traffic everyday. Because I don't have any experience with urban traffic except as a passenger, I plan on taking some lessons at a driving school when i move to SA so I will better understand the "rules of the road." I just hope that cars with automatic transmissions are readily available because I don't want to have to trying to learn stick at the same time as learning to drive on the other side of the road.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Something else... I wonder why they don't do a better job of fixing potholes. I would expect that to be a pretty basic function of government and it isn't all that expensive.

You probably already knew this but the SA government in its' infinite wisdom has decided to try out new battery powered robots at an eyewatering cost to the taxpayers. Now why waste money on that when they should be SYNCHRONIZING them instead?