Load shedding has become a part of everyday life for many South Africans, with power outages disrupting daily activities, including driving. Major intersections are often left without traffic lights for extended periods, leaving motorists to navigate the roads without the usual safety features. Untrained pointsmen such as street vendors and car guards often step in to help, but the Automobile Association (AA) warns that this could bring certain dangers and legal ramifications. In this blog post, we discuss the AA’s recommendations on how to stay safe on the roads during load shedding.
The Dangers of Unofficial Pointsmen
Although the intention of the unofficial pointsmen is noble and in many cases, traffic does flow, it only takes one serious accident to realize the folly of this endeavor. Furthermore, these “pointsmen” are not legally authorized to perform this duty, leaving motorists with no legal recourse should something go wrong.
The AA advises that it is impossible for one motorist to ignore the instructions given by these unofficial pointsmen. This would cause chaos when other drivers are complying, and the situation requires urgent intervention by traffic authorities. However, in many cases, traffic authorities are nowhere to be seen when traffic lights go down.
Tips for Motorists
Here are some tips from the AA for motorists stuck in load shedding traffic:
- Check the blackout schedules for your route, not just your suburb. If possible, take another route or leave earlier or later to avoid traffic.
- Stay calm if traffic is congested, and be courteous to other drivers. Remember that everyone is in the same situation.
- If traffic lights are not working due to load shedding, approach intersections as four-way stops.
- If unofficial pointsmen are directing traffic, it’s best to follow their guidance, but be cautious when approaching intersections, and always check other drivers’ behavior before moving forward.
- Make provision for unplanned blackouts and allow enough time for your journey to arrive on time for meetings or appointments. Being late and stuck in traffic may cause heightened stress and anxiety, which may manifest in road rage.
The AA believes that traffic authorities should do more to deploy staff to the busier intersections in our cities, especially during peak traffic hours. The lack of traffic law-enforcers during rolling blackouts highlights the need for more traffic officials in the country. Load shedding is an ongoing issue, and motorists must stay vigilant and cautious when navigating the roads during these times.