The lore of the lights (or a quick guide to surviving Zimbabwe’s traffic lights)

17 07 2009

Surviving Harare’s traffic lights (and by extension this applies to the rest of the country) is not to be taken lightly. Here are a few scenarios and how to deal with them.

1. The traffic pattern implies that all the lights are working. Assume nothing; traffic lights are merely suggestions and red lights are a challenge. Proceed with caution, preferably not as the first vehicle into the intersection. Let someone else be the bait.

2. The lights that you can see are working but you cannot see any others working, they probably are not. Proceed with caution, preferably not as the first vehicle into the intersection. Let someone else be the bait.

3. You cannot see ANY lights working but that does not mean that ALL lights are not working. Proceed with caution, preferably not as the first vehicle into the intersection. Let someone else be the bait.

4. You have come through at least 3 sets of lights that are not working (there was no power at home either) and it looks like this lot is out too. This IS actually the safest scenario as no-one believes they have right of way but don’t take anything for granted. Good luck and may the bravest survive. (This does not apply in South Africa where an intersection with non-functioning traffic lights must be treated like a 4-way stop street).

5. All the lights are actually flashing orange indicating a malfunction. Wow, you ARE privileged! Not many people actually see this fail-safe working so take a photo to prove it to your friends (time it for the flash!)

There are of course other combinations of the above but these are the basics. The best survival technique is to skulk in the shadow of something big enough that no-one else will “dis” it. 7 tonners are good, 30 tonners are the best.

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