Case Law: Traffic Light Intersections (5)

Robot controlled intersections.

Continuing on our Series of Case Studies setting out the different scenarios in Motor Vehicle Accidents backed by Case Law…

State vs Smuts 1984 (4) SA 416 (TPD)    


Y approached the intersection with the traffic lights flashing orange in the direction that he was travelling and X approached the intersection from another direction with red lights flashing. The accident occurred at night time.

The left half of the front bumper of Y collided with the left hand side of X. Just as Y wanted to enter the intersection, he saw X ± 15m on his right hand side. X was also on the point of entering the intersection.

Y could not see X earlier because of the fact that X just came from out of a dip in the road. They therefore entered the intersection at the same time.

X did not stop and entered the intersection at a high speed. Y braked very hard, but could not swerve out because the road surface was wet at the time. This would in any case not have prevented the accident.

The point of impact was 5m in the intersection from Y direction and 15m in the intersection from X direction.

Held – Court decision:

Such situation cannot be compared to that of a situation at a four way stop.

  1. Y who approached the flashing orange lights (these days all lights will flash red), and all lights today are equal to a yield sign which one must yield to all traffic that is in the intersection.
  2. Y must approach the intersection at such a speed that would enable him to yield to above traffic. Y can assume that any visible traffic that approached the intersection should stop.
  3. Y does not have to decrease his speed to such an extent that if a vehicle in the crossing should drove over the stop line that he would be in a position to avoid the accident.
  4. Y must do everything reasonable to try to avoid an accident with any vehicle that he could see will ignore the stop sign.
  5. Y, which is approaching the flashing red light (the same as a stop street), is obligated to stop in all circumstances and is not allowed to proceed before it is safe to do so.

It was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Y, which approached the flashing orange light, did not do it with the necessary care or did not keep a proper lookout.

The State failed to prove any negligence on the side of Y.

It must be noted that these days, when a traffic intersection is malfunctioning, all lights will flash red and motorists should treat it as a four way stop.

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