0452 09.2.25 A taxi takes advantage of the emergency lane on the M1 North highway in Johannesburg. Picture: Cara Viereckl

Few things get drivers caught in a traffic jam as steamed up as seeing impatient drivers using the emergency lane to selfishly jump the queue.

At the same time, it’s regarded as a courtesy for slower cars to move into the yellow lane to allow faster cars to overtake.

But when exactly are you allowed to use the emergency lane?

Are you obliged to move over if a vehicle wants to pass you on an open road, or are you within your right to continue your steady path?

The answer is simple, and clearly laid out in Regulation 298A of the National Road Traffic Act which refers to yellow lines.

Legally, the only time you are allowed to use the emergency lane is if you have a real emergency, such as if your car breaks down, if you are rushing to the hospital, or need to stop immediately in the event of a medical emergency.


On a freeway, the emergency lane is reserved for emergencies only, such as fire-fighting vehicles, emergency response vehicles, rescue vehicles and ambulances, so if you need to use it then the purpose needs to be for the same kind of reasons. Using the emergency lane as a “passing lane” on a freeway is not permitted at all.

The only exception for normal motorists is if you are travelling on a single carriageway road with one lane in each direction. In this case it is permitted to move into the emergency lane to allow faster moving cars to pass you.


However, the Act clearly states that if you are moving aside to allow vehicles to pass, you can only do so during daytime hours, which means between sunrise and sunset.

By law you are required to make sure that you have at least 150m of visibility ahead before you move over, so under no circumstances can you slip into the yellow line on a blind rise.

Likewise, on an open road, if there is heavy rain, mist or fog that hinders visibility, the emergency lane is out of bounds as you may hit a stationery vehicle, or worse, a pedestrian. - Star Motoring