Communication among road users … a recipe for mutual safety

Many a times, road users (drivers, pedestrians and motorist) feel independent from each other on our roads. Realistically, we are all connected to each other. The action of one affects the triangle and each one is mutually responsible for the safety of others on our roads.

And because of the above mindset, many accidents and human casualties happen our roads. In this, we will look at some of the ways road users communicate with each other for mutual safety.

Car traffic indicators

Car traffic indicators are used to show the intention of a driver about what direction he or she will go next. It is useful to the other surrounding road users as well. Ideally, the indicator should be actuated 30 metres before a turn in the city, and 150 metres before a turn on the highway because of the speed at which the cars are moving.

Just imagine that all the vehicles behind you assume you are moving straight ahead, only for you to show that you are making a turn within the next 2 seconds. Imagine the consequences to pedestrians on the shoulder of a road. This is most common among commercial drivers in the urban areas – i.e. Mini-vans (trotros and taxis). It is best to declare our intentions earlier, so that other road users can make provision for us. It is also incumbent on other road users to be on the lookout for this when at junctions and other turns.  Defective indicator lights should be checked and replaced.


So, I was driving on an inner-city road and stopped for a vehicle to enter the main road from a junction. Unknowingly, a motorist was right beside me not knowing that a vehicle was entering into the other lane. This is a clear situation of where and when hand-signals need to be used.

In a case when a vehicle stops for a pedestrian to cross the road or for a vehicle to enter the main road, hand-signals are essential to warn nearby motorists of what is going on around them.

A lot of commercial drivers are good at this, but omit proper and recognised hand-signals, and we should know them all by heart and what each of them mean.

The Horn

The horn is a safety feature in the vehicle for warning and alerting motorist and pedestrians of the dangers around. Unfortunately, this is often abused – mostly by commercial transport operators (taxis and trotros) who use it to alert by-standing passengers. That is why it has lost its significance.


Headlight-flashing is the act of briefly switching the headlights of a car on and off intermittently; or momentarily switching headlights’ high and low beams to communicate with other driver(s) and road users. It is sometimes called an ‘optical horn’ by some manufactures, because it is used to draw the attention of others.

(A link to a YouTube video demonstrating headlight flashing courtesy Tim Clayton)


Headlight-flashing can also be used for the purposes of:

  • Letting other drivers know of their presence
  • To signal that the flashing driver is yielding the right of way
  • To warn other drivers of road dangers, such as broken-down vehicles on the road

These are ways by which drivers and other road users can communicate their intentions to others for their mutual safety. It is best to look out for these signs when we on the road. Let’s be safe.

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