The two ‘poephol buttons’ in our cars

Constable Thobani Kumkani of the KwaNonqaba Police Station with the Opel Corsa a suspect was driving. Photo: Nickey le Roux

If you’re touching these too often, then you should at least know what you are.

So, here’s a question for those of you who spend a lot of time in your car on our sometimes chaotic roads.

There are two poephol buttons in your average car – what are they?

And, those of you putting up your hands, let me stop you right there: the hooter (or horn as the Yanks say) is not the correct answer.

The first one of these buttons is the least problematic, because not all cars have one – but using it inappropriately nevertheless marks you down as an idiot. That is the button activating the vehicle’s fog lights, front or back.

Why? Well because, more and more these days, fog lights are being used in broad daylight, or in clear conditions at night.

Here’s the reality: doing that is illegal. You will get fined … at least assuming there is a cop around and he or she knows the law (and that is not always guaranteed).

The fine is R500, I understand.

In terms of Regulation 163 (6) of the National Road Traffic Act, 93 of 1996, “No person is allowed to operate on a public road, a motor vehicle while any fog lamp fitted to such vehicle is lit, except in conditions of poor visibility caused by snow, fog, mist, dust or smoke.”

Even more frightening is a tendency to use them in conjunction with parking lights, instead of the main beam headlights.

The most important thing to remember if you insist on using fog lights as main beam substitutes is that even the best of them do not have the range of the proper items.

So you might not see the pothole until too late. And here’s something else you probably didn’t think about, either.

Given that fog lights are for unusual or emergency situations, their bulbs are not designed to last as long as those in main beam units.

So, if you want to waste your money, go ahead.

The other button is a contribution to the national road madness by those who invented the term, the taxi industry.

Years ago, taxi drivers were often accused of stopping anywhere, any time. They would just pull over, resulting in many a rear-end collision.

Then, as their vehicles also caught up with the modern world, they discovered the hazard lights button – and used it as a warning to those behind that something unexpected was about to happen.

Not a bad idea, actually, although it is still illegal.

The law says such lights can only be used when a vehicle is “stationary in a hazardous position” or “in motion in an emergency situation” (which some might say does apply to taxis).

In any other circumstance, using hazard lights is illegal.

That still has not stopped tens of thousands of ignorant motorists copying taxis and using hazard lights to indicate a left turn, a right turn, a U-turn, an impending stop in the middle of the street (that’s what a street’s there for, isn’t it?).

Had they been trained properly, or not been able to bribe or buy their way to a driver’s licence, the problem would not exist.

The problem is that, if I am following you and you use your hazards as indicators, I do not know exactly what you intend.

And that is dangerous.

People die for less than that. On the other hand, though, I should allow you all to carry on. Your lights are just as effective as a neon orange sign saying “I am a moron” and “I have no clue how to drive”.

Brendan Seery.

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