Case Law: Traffic Light Intersections (1)

Robot controlled intersections

The first in our new Series of Case Studies setting out the different scenarios in Motor Vehicle Accidents backed by Case Law…

Case Study:

random robots MVO Consultants

Y approaches the intersection, the traffic light changes to green in his favour, he enters the intersection; while X drove over the red traffic light and collided against the side of Y.


Legal principles:

  1. Y enters the intersection as the traffic light changes to green must make provision for a possible driver X that is still crossing the intersection and that can cross before Y. After that, Y can however assume or accept that X approaching the red light will not enter the intersection.
  2. Y that enters the intersection just after the traffic light change to green can assume or accept that X that approaching the red light will not enter the intersection before the light change to green. Y must stop at an orange light, but if he is too close to the stop line, he may proceed cautiously through the intersection.
  3. Therefore Y, who has the green light in his favour and has the right of way, however has a duty to keep a lookout for traffic in the intersection as he crosses the intersection. It is expected from Y to be awake and to pay attention to his immediate surroundings.
  4. If X alleges that the traffic lights were not functioning correctly, he must prove same, for example: other motorist that had the same complaint or other accidents where it was alleged that the robots were not functioning properly. (S vs Lund 1987(4) SA 548 (N))

Case Law:

Netherlands Insurance Company of South Africa Limited vs Brummer 1978 (4) 824 AD)


An accident occurred at a robot intersection, which consists of two lanes in each direction. X was travelling from east to west in the left hand traffic lane and Y was travelling from north to south in the inside lane.

Both alleged that the other party was travelling against the red traffic light.

After listening to various testimonies, it was accepted that X entered the intersection against a red traffic light.

Y stated that as he entered the intersection, he did not look towards his left and therefore did not see X before the impact.

Held / Court Ruled Decsion:

Y entering the intersection while the traffic light is green for him must look out for traffic that is already in the intersection. Example: traffic that enters the intersection just before the traffic light changed. Y must not ignore vehicles of which he is aware and that are clearly driven on a negligent basis. It is expected from Y to be on the lookout for traffic that is entering the intersection against a red light from left or right.

In the matter of SA Eagle vs Harford 1992 (2) 786 (A) this principle was confirmed: that it could not be expected from a reasonable driver to be absolutely sure that it is safe to enter an intersection before he enters it.

In the matter at hand, there was no trustworthy evidence as to where Y’s vehicle was when the light changed to green for him. There were no grounds where it could be found that Y, at that stage, was on or just over the stop line of the intersection.

It was thus proved that Y was negligent.

The appeal succeeded, and absolution of the instance with costs was ordered.


More Case Law to follow


About MVO/VTH admin

Director of MVO Consultants and VTH Consultants, specializing in all Liability Claims, Loss of Income and the investigation of merits.
This entry was posted in Case Law, Motor Vehicle Accident Investigations, Robot controlled intersection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s