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blitz on turning right at robot-controlled intersections
reports about 'arrests' of motorists for exiting robot-controlled
intersections to the right when the red light facing you is showing,
we thought members might find the following helpful - both
for yourself and your family and staff.
First, a little
homily. There is little doubt that the quality of driving in Zimbabwe
is generally poor, particularly at intersections. There are many
reasons for this. However, an honest review of one's own driving
may well lead to the sobering conclusion that each of us has become
lax - not merely other drivers. In that context, policing
the roads and enforcing the rules of the road, while sometimes personally
inconvenient, can only be a good thing.
Code has remarked variously over the years that the motor vehicle
has contributed much to a better way of living but a more violent
way of dying, a vehicle is a good means of transport but a dangerous
weapon in the hands of reckless people and should you be involved
in a killing or maiming - and the possibility is high -
you may be haunted all your life. Moving at speed, armoured within
a metal body, motorists often feel invincible. But in any collision
between metal and flesh, metal always wins. Inconvenient interventions
by the police may be a small price to pay to keep oneself and other
abuse of power by 'auxiliaries' at police stop points, and your
possible responses within the law, are discussed at the end of this
We start with
our interpretation of relevant extracts from the Rules of the Road
Regulations, contained in extracts from the most recent edition
of The Highway Code that are reproduced later in this bulletin.
right at robot-controlled intersections
The Code states
that when approaching a robot, you should be prepared to bring your
vehicle to a gentle halt. This is a particularly significant principle
- braking to an abrupt halt or 'shooting the lights' on the
amber (or, worse, the red) means you were not prepared to bring
your vehicle to a gentle halt. In the official view, you thereby
put yourself and others at risk of accident.
If the green
light is showing, you 'shall' (this word in the regulations means
you 'must', i.e. not 'may') proceed across the stop line -
subject to taking all necessary precautions. We take this proviso
to mean you should use your common sense - don't bulldoze
ahead regardless of other traffic, pedestrians and so on.
If you judge
it unlikely that you can completely cross the stop line while the
green light is showing, remain behind the stop line and wait for
the next green light.
means that you should not attempt to cross the stop line when the
amber light is showing.
the stop line when the red light is showing is considered 'criminally
dangerous', according to the Code.
Once you have
entered the intersection on the green light, intending to turn right,
you must give way to oncoming traffic in the straight ahead lane,
since you must not turn in front of oncoming traffic.
wide multi-lane intersections, where there is oncoming traffic,
this will mean that two vehicles can safely enter and stop in the
intersection, waiting to turn right.
traffic follows the same principles as those set out above, and
vehicles wait behind the stop line as their signal turns to amber,
the lights will change to green in the direction you are now travelling
as you exit the intersection.
Have you broken
the law? No.
This can be
confirmed by studying the following extracts from The Highway Code,
Volume 1, 2006: published by the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe:
Harare. (Remember when you had to study the Code, not merely read
Copies of The
Highway Code may be purchased from the offices of the Traffic Safety
Council of Zimbabwe - in Harare to be found at 37 Selous Avenue/Fifth
Street, phone 751203, 751208, 728024, 705735. The price on 23rd
May 2007 was $57 500.
In the interests
of focusing attention on the essentials relevant to turning right
at robot-controlled intersections, certain words have been omitted
in the following extracts. These omissions are indicated by three
dots ( . . . )
comments are inserted, where appropriate.
from The Highway Code
a red light . . . does not give anyone a right of way - it
only takes certain rights away from the traffic facing them.'
p.10 'The Robot
- If traffic at the junction you are approaching is controlled
by a robot (traffic lights), the instruction conveyed by these devices
overrides all others, except those of a policeman controlling traffic.
- You STOP
on the RED AND AMBER
- You may GO
on the GREEN
- You may follow
the GREEN ARROW.'
Do not enter
a junction unless you are satisfied not only that you have the right
to enter the junction but also that it is safe to do so.'
RIGHT in front of ONCOMING traffic.'
p.11 'How to
If you wish
to make . . . a right turn, here is how you do it:
1. Get into
the correct position. (i.e. as far to the RIGHT of your side of
the carriageway as possible - p.7 of the Code)
in good time.
a smooth turn right of the centre spot or follow guide lines if
a Robot, make sure you are in the correct traffic lane for the course
you wish to follow, and be prepared to bring your vehicle to a gentle
By means of
coloured light signals, the Robot directs road users to behave in
the manner as outlined in the following extract from the regulations:'
have the force of law. You commit an offence if you disobey them,
The relevant Rules of the Road Regulations were published in Statutory
Instrument (SI) Number 308 of 1974, as amended by SI's 20/1984,
126/1987, 89/1988, 206/1988, 20/1994, 76/1996, 171/1999 and 299/2002.
given by the lights of any robot shall be -
(a) Red -
subject to the provisions of para (e) (below), no vehicle facing
the signal shall cross the stop line.
Green - all vehicles facing the signal shall, subject to
due precaution being taken, proceed straight ahead or to the left
or to the right: Provided that the movement is not contrary to
any specific regulatory sign.
Amber (when in a light sequence) - no vehicle facing the
signal shall cross the stop line unless - when the amber
light first appears after the green light, or green arrow, as
the case may be - the vehicle is so close to the stop line
that a stop cannot safely be made behind such stop line, in which
case the vehicle shall proceed subject to due precaution being
Amber (fixed or flashing when not in a light sequence) -
all vehicles proceeding across the stop line shall do so with
caution; and at an intersection or junction shall give precedence
to traffic approaching on the road on the right hand side.
Green arrow - all vehicles facing the signal shall, subject
to due precaution being taken, proceed straight ahead, or to the
left or to the right as indicated by the arrow, notwithstanding
any indication given by any other lens illuminated at the same
the green arrow pointing to the left or to the right is illuminated
in conjunction with the red lens, traffic facing the signal shall
give precedence to other traffic within the intersection or junction;
no green arrow pointing to the left or the right shall be illuminated
in conjunction with the green lens, unless all other traffic at
an intersection or junction is facing a red light.'
'The full sequence
of robot lights might not be justified at all hours and the amber
light may be shown alone. Under these circumstances, vehicles entering
the intersection shall exercise particular caution and shall give
precedence to all traffic approaching from a road on the right hand
exists a common - and understandable - misconception
that late at night where there is no other traffic it is permissible
to proceed through a red robot, in the interests of personal security.
As far as we know, this is not provided for in law. We suggest that
any person travelling in such circumstances, when traffic is minimal,
should rather adjust his or her speed and gear changes to ensure
that while they keep moving at all times they time their approach
to ensure they can safely proceed through the robot-controlled intersection
on the green light. It requires the development of some judgment
and skill in casting one's eyes ahead to read the signs but it is
a safer course than 'running the red'.
is an offence to enter a robot controlled intersection in a straight
ahead lane if traffic conditions are such that you are unlikely
to be able to proceed through the intersection without having to
provision is intended to avoid the feared traffic gridlock, where
an intersection is blocked in all four directions.
'When you move
forward on the green light, give consideration to pedestrians crossing
with the light and stop if necessary.'
the instruction of a robot or endeavouring to "beat the red"
are violations of the law and amongst the most criminally dangerous
actions that can be perpetrated on the road.'
are stopped by the police
If you are stopped
by the police after turning right in the correct fashion as stipulated
by The Highway Code, remain calm and courteous at all times. We
realize this may be easier said than done, particularly where you
consider you are in the right, but anger, hostility or bluster are
unlikely to gain you any advantage. It is the job of the police
to maintain order on the roads.
Ask for clear
details of any alleged transgression of The Highway Code or, if
the police official turns technical (e.g. "It's not the highway
code, it's the regulations") of the Rules of the Road Regulations.
1. If you
are informed that you 'are under arrest', or 'will be detained
in the cells over the weekend', or 'will have to do community
service cleaning the toilets at the hospital', or 'will go to
jail for six months' - all contained in recent secondhand
reports we have heard - try to remain calm. These are likely
to be ill-judged remarks by junior 'auxiliaries' of one sort or
another, possibly with some hidden agenda.
2. We suggest
that you say nothing in response. Just wait.
3. Note whether
the speaker is in formal police uniform.
4. If he indicates
he wishes to enter your vehicle, politely ask him to produce his
police identity card.
5. If he produces
it, scrutinise it. Make at least a mental note of his name and
rank for future reference.
6. Ask if
you can write the details down - name, rank, Force number,
station. Explain that you understand the magistrate may request
these from you at any 'trial' and your lawyer too.
7. If he has
any 'hidden agenda' - or has no police identity card -
he is likely to react strongly to your request and refuse to produce
8. We suggest
you do not react and just wait in silence.
9. If he again
indicates he wishes to enter your car, indicate you need to speak
to a more senior police officer.
10. By this
time, there are likely to have been several more light changes,
more traffic flagged down, and the steam may have gone out of
the encounter - particularly if you have been calm, courteous
and deliberate at all times.
is a good chance that you will be waved on with an admonishment
- and he will turn to another 'prospect'.
12. If not,
and you have to drive to Harare Central - the idea of which
may cause a cold shiver to run down the collective spines of law-abiding
citizens, given recent press reports - expect to have to
possess your soul in patience.
13. In the
end, possibly at the end of the day, you may be advised to go,
with no action being taken.
14. Or you
may be invited to sign an Admission of Guilt Form and pay a Deposit
Fine. Until recently, these were administered on the spot. Note
Instrument 30A/2007 makes it clear that the maximum Deposit
Fine that a police officer can levy is $2 500 (yes - that
is two thousand five hundred dollars only). This was reported
in the March 2007(1) issue of this Bulletin. One can but speculate
why it has been felt necessary to remove this power from officers
on the ground, at the scene of the offence.
15. Or you
may have to wait some time until a magistrate is available and
sufficient alleged offenders have been gathered.
16. If you appear
before a magistrate, try not to complain about inconvenience etc.
In the eyes of the law, a licence to drive a vehicle carries responsibilities
as well as rights. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, as they
say. In other words, explain your side of events calmly and courteously.
If you maintain you are innocent of any wrongdoing, you are likely
to be referred for trial in magistrate's court at some future date
and sent away till then. You are most unlikely to be detained in
cells for a minor traffic offence. Will such a trial eventuate?
Well, that will depend on the quality of evidence, if any, that
the police have recorded of any wrongdoing on your part. While events
are fresh in your mind, make your won clear written record -
date, time, place, events, details of the 'arresting officer', and
so on. Keep it factual - try not to turn it into a grievance
report. It is the job of the police to maintain order on the roads,
after all - even if sometimes not done as well as it might
last pieces of advice
1. What should
you do if one lone officer flags you down and gets into the car
while you are still trying to gather your wits? He is likely to
be an entrepreneur, on a fishing trip, or envisaging an ATM transaction.
Try and follow the guidelines set out above. Remember, the officer
may be going off duty and not really want to go to the station himself.
Study the situation. Is he carrying a clipboard, for example, with
a pad of A.4-size Admission of Guilt Forms? If not, he may not be
about official business.
2. Should you
ever ask about 'paying a fine instead'? That's up to you. You may
wish to avoid inconvenience and 'buy your way out of difficulty'.
Remember, however, that section 3 of the Prevention of Corruption
Act provides severe penalties for offering a bribe to a public official
- extending to imprisonment. (It provides the same severe
penalties for an official who solicits a bribe.) Choose your words
very carefully. Indicate that you will need an official receipt
'for your accountant'. Bureaucracy tends to dampen the enthusiasm
of even the most enthusiastic fisherman. If he says he cannot give
you a receipt, it becomes less likely that he will want to accompany
you to the station where you might repeat this. If you do make some
payment and are not given some form of official receipt (e.g. a
copy of the Z69J form, Admission of Guilt Form), then consider yourself
particular caution when driving on Friday afternoons. A magistrate
is unlikely to be available then. Even more so on Friday evenings
or during weekends.
With all the
partly-functioning or non-functioning traffic lights, remember that
the general rule of the road in Zimbabwe is DRIVE ON THE LEFT, GIVE
WAY TO THE RIGHT. Be careful. Be safe.
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