How can two drive together unless they are agreed?

Historically, the rules of the road embody the consensus of experts (and some non-experts) about how vehicles should drive to avoid collisions, and ensure reasonably efficient transport in a variety of conditions. A standard side of the road is used, the speed limits are set according to what is reasonably safe in a wide range of weather conditions, and one gives way at a yield sign and stops at red lights.

Historically, government has codified the rules of the road as law, and provided means to enforce these rules: a licence test to ensure familiarity with the rules, and officers to enforce at least some of the rules.

Historically the driving public has agreed with the consensus of the experts, as reflected by law, and implemented their regulations with minor improvements: adjusting the speed limit upwards by 10% and from 100km/h to 120km/h, trundling through stop signs in 1st gear, stopping in no-stopping areas and loading zones for only a short time, and reluctantly paying fines.

However, the consensus is slipping.

Have a look around Johannesburg. The median speed of cars in a 60km/h zone is 82km/h. 80km/h translates to 117km/h. 120km/h means 135km/h. The emergency lane and the pavement are fair game, as is driving in the oncoming traffic for short distances and sometimes more. Adding extra turning lanes, driving over solid lines and painted islands, having fictional or absent licence plates, bribery and non-payment of fines is no longer the exclusive preserve of the taxi industry.

At some point, the reasonable man must admit that the old consensus no longer exists, and the “full force of the law” is of no force at all. We are almost there.

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