Every South African knows we have our own special way of doing things – we say “shame” to cute babies, “now now” when we mean “just now” and “howzit” to say hello; but did you know we’re also unique when it comes to our driving habits?

Here are the top 5 driving habits that South Africans have. How many can you spot in yourself?

1. Use our hazards to say ‘thank you’

Hazard lights are used to alert other drivers if you’re stopping or slowing down without warning, but did you know that you technically aren’t supposed to use your hazards for anything except an emergency?

Apart from South Africa, Japanese drivers also use their hazards to be courteous to other drivers, but the practice isn’t well-known in most countries – so if you’re the designated driver while travelling in another country, think twice before using your hazards and confusing the locals.

2. Flash our lights to warn about a roadblock

It’s an age-old South African tradition to warn oncoming motorists about a roadblock by flashing your headlights at them, and it’s helped countless South Africans adjust their speed and save themselves a fine.

While it’s almost impossible for law officials to control whether a driver flashes their lights to warn someone, if a traffic officer spots you, you can receive a fine. Maybe.

According to court decisions on the matter, there have been conflicting judgements.

Here’s the first judgement:

“If a motorist warns other motorists of the presence of a speed trap by flashing his lights, he interferes with the due administration of justice. According to the decision in Naidoo [1777 2 SA 123 (N)], the motorist commits an attempt to defeat the course of justice. 

And the second judgement, which says the complete opposite:

However, in S v Perera [1978 3 SA 523 (T)] in which the facts were materially the same, it was held that the person committing the act will only be guilty if he has reason to believe that the vehicle approaching him is exceeding the speed limit, or that the driver of this vehicle has the intention of exceeding the speed limit. In as far as these two decisions are irreconcilable it is submitted that the latter should be followed. This type of conduct is in effect nothing more than a warning to others to obey the law

So what’s the truth – can you actually be fined for flashing an oncoming motorist to warn about a roadblock or speed trap?

Howard Dembovsky, the National Chairman of the Justice Project South Africa, says, “Flashing your lights at oncoming motorists to warn them of a speed trap ahead is not specifically illegal. Those law enforcement authorities [using “defeating the ends of justice” as justification] have found themselves getting sued for unlawful arrest.”

3. Never leave space between your car and the car in front of you

According to a social media post that went viral a couple of years ago, the rule around leaving a safe space in South Africa is:

“Under no circumstance should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, this space will be filled by at least 2 taxis and a BMW, putting you in an even more dangerous situation.”

While we encourage motorists to drive safely and follow the rules of the road, it’s always possible that the gap will be filled by drivers you never intended to let cut in front of you. That’s just life in South Africa!

4. Call traffic lights ‘robots’

Legend has it that before we had traffic lights in South Africa, the police used to control traffic intersections with their hands (as they still do when traffic lights aren’t working).

When the police were replaced by traffic lights, it created the impression that a human job was replaced by machines – hence the name ‘robot’!

Do you know a different story about why we call traffic lights ‘robots’? Let us know on our Facebook page!

5. Keep coins in our car

Did you know that car guards are unique to Southern Africa, which includes South Africa, Egypt, Mozambique, and Namibia?

According to the research paper The Car Guards of Cape Town: A Public Good Analysis, high unemployment in South Africa means that the informal market absorbs the excess supply of labour and, as of 2012, almost 16% of the informal sector was employed as car guards. With the unemployment rate in South Africa increasing over the years, it’s likely that in 2021 even more of the informal labour sector is made up of car guards.

A study done by Business Insider in 2019 showed that most drivers tip car guards anywhere between R2 and R10, which means that South African drivers tend to keep smaller coins and notes in their cars for easy access to tip car guards.

But what will happen to car guards now that the country is increasingly moving towards digital payments?

A new system called TiPPED allows drivers to tip their car guards – at no additional fee – either through a QR code or even your online banking app. Pretty innovative, huh?

Another uniquely South African product? dotsure.co.za Name Your Price™ car insurance! Get insurance you can trust at a price you can choose by switching on and off cover limitations as you need them. Get a free online quote in under 5 minutes today.