Durban - South Africans continue to drive in emergency lanes ‘with impunity’ despite its being prohibited, research by the Automobile Association has found.
In spite of regulations in the National Road Traffic Act, which state that the lanes may be used only during emergencies, the AA found that drivers “simply use the yellow lane as an extra lane, especially in heavy traffic”.
Paramedics also said on Wednesday the public’s use of emergency lanes greatly hindered their work.
The AA said: “Using the emergency lane as a passing lane on a freeway is not permitted, although this is often the case, even on highways.
”Emergency lanes are there to provide easy access to emergency vehicles such as ambulances, rescue vehicles, and police cars.’
The organisation said the use of emergency lanes could contribute to road rage.
“Once drivers use the emergency lane, they then have to force their way back into normal traffic. This in itself is the cause of much anger among drivers who follow the rules.”
The AA called on traffic police to clamp down on this behaviour.
KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert McKenzie said: “Unfortunately, it’s a very common occurrence. It affects us from getting to the scene on time, especially if traffic is backlogged.”
ER24 spokesman Russel Meiring said: “It hinders us greatly in attempts to get to emergencies quickly, leading to delayed response or even, sometimes, not getting there at all.”
Both pleaded with the KwaZulu-Natal public not to use emergency lanes.
The AA noted that the only exception allowed was when motorists were travelling on single-carriageway roads with one lane in each direction. Here motorists were allowed to move into emergency lanes to allow other vehicles to overtake.
“However, the act clearly states that this can be done only during daytime hours.”
The AA said motorists used a variety of reasons to justify this behaviour, such as needing to get to destinations quickly, “but that doesn’t give them the right to make up the rules as they go along”.