Heavy and slow vehicles pose a greater risk of rear end collisions, especially at night, in rain and mist. Drivers and operators must ensure that their vehicles remain visible on the road.
Major transport routes incident data published in South Africa in 2011 indicate that ‘head to tail’ crashes make up over 25% of incidents. Most of these incidents are due in whole or in part to visibility defects.
The South African National Road Traffic Act in Regulations 157, 158, 168, 191, 192A specifies requirements for vehicle rear lamps, visibility distance, rear chevron signs, as well as side and rear retro reflective contour or strip markings, for various sizes and types of vehicles.
Regulation 168 specifies the position of a primary set of rear lights relative to the ground and outer end of the vehicle. It also requires under 168 (4) that rear lamps fitted to motor vehicles, in addition to those prescribed in this regulation, may be fitted higher than 2.1metres above ground level.
Additional high rear surface lights that assist in making vehicles more visible can therefore be fitted on vehicles with a high rear surface area.
Chevron plates must be fitted to the rear of heavy vehicles. Drivers and operators must ensure that these chevrons are clean and in good condition. Chevrons on trucks, especially tipper trucks, have to be cleaned regularly or as required by use.
A 2003 requirement prescribes side and rear retro reflective material, named contour or strip markings, for heavy vehicles and trailers. These strips may be used together with reflective company logos. Additional lights and reflective materials may be displayed on vehicles.
Using headlights by day greatly increases vehicle visibility, and is recommended in South Africa.
Portable warning triangles
Vehicle owners are required to maintain several components of traffic visibility, including a portable warning triangle on board for use in roadside emergencies on heavy vehicles, and in cars registered after 1 July 2006.
A portable warning triangle has to be used during a breakdown or accident, placed 45 metres behind the vehicle. Visibility components include front headlights, rear taillights, a warning triangle accessible on board, and on public transport and heavy vehicles, Hi Viz tape on sides and rear, and a rear chevron plate.
The SA National Road Traffic Act, under Regulation 214, requires at least one portable warning triangle, bearing a relevant SABS or EU standard mark, to be carried in motor cars that were first registered after 1 July 2006. Some new cars are being sold without the required portable warning triangle.
The Transport Research Forum reports that Class 4 vehicles were checked at the N3 Tugela Plaza on two days last year, in northbound lanes, and 124 vehicles were found to be defective on visibility components. -Sources; Caia. Richard Durrant. Transport Research Forum.
PHOTO; Heavy vehicle lighting, reflection, use, maintenance and cleaning must comply with visibility legislation requirements. Traffic authorities are aware that poor vehicle visibility contribute to 25% of traffic collisions.