K53 car controls for learners & defensive driving

K53 car controls for learners & defensive driving

Understanding the K53 car controls & the defensive driving method helps lay a foundation for the correct manoeuvre of a vehicle.

K53 car controls diagram

Study the K53 car controls diagram below and then read through each description that follows.

K53 car Controls, Learners License Test, Drivers Test
K53 car controls

1. Rear-view mirror

They used for observing objects behind your vehicle.

2. Windscreen wipers

Windscreen wipers are used in rainy weather to keep your windshield clear or for cleaning the windshield.

3. Side mirrors

Use your side mirrors for visibility of objects on either the left or right-hand side of your vehicle.

4. Steering wheel

A K53 control that turns your vehicle in the direction in which you would like to go.

5. Indicator lever

Indicate your intention with this K53 control to move your vehicle in either a left or right direction.

6. Gear lever

Change your gears into a higher gear, a lower gear, or reverse by using the gear lever. You will use the gear lever in conjunction with the clutch.

7. Handbrake

Fully engage your handbrake K53 control when your vehicle is stationary and parked on a decline.

8. Clutch

Fully engage your clutch when you need to change your gear lever into a lower gear, a higher gear or reverse.

9. Brake

Make use of your K53 brake control when you want to slow your vehicle down or when you want to bring your vehicle to a complete stop.

10. Accelerator

Engage your K53 accelerator control to provide your vehicle with power so that you can move your car in a forward or backward direction.

11. Hooter

Use your hooter to warn other pedestrians or drivers that you are nearby. Using your hooter can help avoid a collision.

The K53 defensive driving method

K53 is a method of driving called ‘defensive driving’. It was designed to keep all road users safe and is just as essential to know and understand as the K53 car controls.

The defensive driving method explained.

1. Search

Be constantly looking in all directions for any potentially dangerous or hazardous conditions. A hazard is anything that has the potential of causing a driver to change direction or speed suddenly. If you need to suddenly change direction or speed, use your K53 car controls appropriately.

2. Identify

Identify hazards on the road that may affect your behaviour while driving. For example, keep a lookout for road repairs taking place and follow the road signs.

3. Predict

Predict what may happen as a result of a hazardous condition, and be prepared to respond accordingly.

4. Decide

Decide on an appropriate response to the hazard that will ensure the safety of all road users.

5. Safety first

Keep a safe following distance of at least two seconds, on a dry road, between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Increase the following distance when:

  • Visibility is poor
  • Being tailgated (a vehicle behind you that is too close to you)
  • The road is wet
  • Your car is heavily loaded

Keeping a safe following distance

The defensive driving method in practice


When signalling to move into another lane:

1. Observe 360º

Look to the front, left, right, and relevant mirrors to ensure it is safe all around the vehicle before signalling.

2. Check the blind spots.

Look over your relevant shoulder to make sure that it is safe in your ‘blind spot’.

3. Signal your intention.

Use your indicator lever to signal your intention to warn other road users that you are about to change lanes.


When braking and changing gears to move into the next lane:

1. Observe again

Having signalled, use the mirrors to check all around you that it is still safe to move into the next lane.

2. Apply the brakes

Gently apply the brakes to reduce your speed, if necessary.

3. Use the gears

Select the appropriate gear if needed.


Lastly, when moving into the next lane:

1. Check your blind spots again

Look over your relevant shoulder again to make sure it is still safe.

2. Steer

If it is safe to do so, steer in the direction you want to go.

3. Accelerate

If necessary, increase your speed and recheck the mirrors to make sure it is safe behind you.

Rules of the road in South Africa, part one

Rules of the road in South Africa, part one

Rules of the road in South Africa

The rules of the road for the K53 keep all road users safe. Following these rules also keeps you out of trouble with the law.

General rules of the road

The general rules of the road are as follows:

1. Police officers overrule any rule of the road.
2. Always drive on the left-hand side of any road and overtake on the right (golden rule!).
3. If you do not obey the rules of the road you are committing an offence and may be prosecuted.

When using driving signals

1. Signal your intention early enough to warn other road users.

You can signal by using indicators, brake lights and where necessary, hand signals.

2. Indicate before you brake.
3. Use indicators whenever you intend to turn or to move left or right into another lane.
4. When changing lanes always check the blind spot by looking over the appropriate shoulder.
5. After moving into a new lane or turning left or right, always cancel the indicator.

K53 Hand Signals Meanings

Study the below illustration on the K53 hand signals meanings and how to use them:

1. Stop – place your right arm outside of the drivers window pointing up.
2. Turning right – place your right hand outside of the driver’s window in a horizontal position.
3. Slowing down/braking – place your right hand outside of the driver’s window and wave it up and down in a controlled manner.
4. Turning left – place your right hand outside of the driver’s window and rotate your wrist in an anti-clockwise direction.

K53 Hand Signals Meanings

Seat belts

1. Seat belts must always be worn while driving a vehicle. They must be worn in the front and, if fitted, in the rear of the vehicle as well.
2. If there is no seat belt fitted for the front passenger seat then children 14 years of age and younger must sit in the rear of the vehicle.
3. If there are no seat belts in the vehicle, then the vehicle may not be used on a public road.
4. If there is a seat with a seat belt fitted then that seat belt must be worn.
5. You may unfasten your seat belt while parking or reversing.

Reckless and inconsiderate driving

1. Drive off from a stationary position only if it is safe to do so and without causing any danger to other traffic (remember defensive driving).
2. Do not deliberately disregard the safety of people or property when driving.
3. Do not drive recklessly or without consideration for other drivers on the road.

Emergency red triangle

1. At least one double-sided red triangle must be carried in all commercial vehicles.
2. In an emergency, the triangle must be displayed on the road at least 45 metres behind the vehicle facing oncoming traffic.

k53 defensive driving in practice

The use of lights

1. When driving between sunset and sunrise always switch your headlights on.
2.The beam must light up objects at least 100 metres ahead.
3. If visibility is not clear for at least 150m then your headlights must be switched on.
4. If there is traffic approaching and your brights are on, switch them to the dimmer beam so as not to affect the vision of other drivers.
5. Parking lights may be used in demarcated parking areas or if you have parked 12 metres or more from a street light.
6. Use the emergency warning lights (two flashing indicators) in an emergency only or when your vehicle is in a potentially hazardous position.

Alcohol and drugs

Do not drive or sit in the drivers seat while the engine of the vehicle is running if you are under the influence of drugs or  alcohol.

Use of roads and freeways

On a two-way road keep as far left as possible while still remaining in your lane so as not to obstruct oncoming traffic.

k53 keeping left

Divided roads

1. If a road is divided by an open space e.g. grass, an island or a painted divider then keep to the left of the road.
2. You may cross a division only at an opening or intersection where it is not prohibited by a traffic officer or road sign.

K53 divided roads

Speed limits

1. Non-urban roads:

  • Light motor vehicles (LMV) – 100km/h
  • Goods vehicles – 80km/h
  • Vehicles that weigh 9000kg or more – 80km/h

2. Urban roads:

  • 60km/h for all vehicles

3. Freeways:

  • Light motor vehicles – 120km/h
  • Vehicles 9000kg and more – 80km/h
  • Buses with passengers – 100km/h

Passing and overtaking

You may overtake a vehicle at any place on a road provided it is a two-lane road and that it is not prohibited by a road sign or a road marking. As follows…

1. When overtaking a vehicle in front of you:

  • Pass to the right of the vehicle but be aware of oncoming traffic and practice the defensive driving method.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle you are overtaking.
  • Make sure you are safely clear of the vehicle you have overtaken before signalling to move back into the left hand lane.
  • When overtaking a stationary bus, be sure to be on the lookout for passengers leaving the bus.
K53 overtaking on the right

2. Overtaking on the left:

You may overtake the vehicle in front of you on the left when:

  • The driver in front of you has indicated to turn right.
  • The road is wide enough for you to do so and you do not obstruct the vehicle in front of you.
  • Provided you do not drive on the left verge or on the left shoulder of the road.
k53 overtaking on the left

3. Overtaking on a two-way road:

  • Don’t try to overtake on the right-hand side of the road if your view is restricted.
  • Never overtake on the right-hand side of the road when approaching the crest of a hill, a rise or a curve in the road.
  • Do not overtake across a solid white line.
  • Remember to never overtake when it is prohibited by a traffic sign, signal or road marking.
  • And lastly, you must not overtake at a scholar patrol or a pedestrian crossing.
k53 overtaking on a two-way road
  • Do not overtake across a solid white line.
k53 crossing a solid white line
  • Remember to never overtake when it is prohibited by a traffic sign, signal or road marking.
  • And lastly, you must not overtake at a scholar patrol or a pedestrian crossing.
k53 overtaking at a pedestrian crossing

Watch the video below on how to overtake correctly.

Turning right

  • Before turning right, keep close to the centre of the road you are on without touching the dividing line.
  • Keeping in the centre also allows vehicles behind you to pass by safely on your left.

Watch the video below on how to turn right.

For more on the rules of the road read the rules of the road 2, the rules of the road 3 or test your knowledge by doing the K53 rules of the road test.

Road rules in South Africa, the second part

Road rules in South Africa, the second part

Road rules in South Africa, the second part

Rules of the road 2 is the second part of the k53 rules of the road.

Allowed on freeways

You may stop on the freeway when:

  • It is within a designated stopping or parking area.
  • It is in accordance with a road sign or signal from a traffic officer.
  • There is a cause beyond your control.

Not allowed on freeways

The following are not allowed on a freeway:

  • Animal drawn vehicles.
  • Animals, except inside of a vehicle or within a designated parking or stopping area.
  • Bicycles.
  • Motorcycles with an engine capacity of 50cc or less.
  • Motor tricycles or quadricycles.
  • Electricity powered motorcycles.
  • Vehicles weighing 230kg or less that have been specially adapted or designed for disabled people.
  • Tractors, unless they are busy with freeway maintenance or construction.
  • Pedestrians, except if they are within a reserved stopping or parking area, or in an emergency situation beyond their control.
  • Hand signals except for a cause beyond the driver’s control.

No stopping areas

You may not stop your vehicle under the following conditions:

  • When stopping is forbidden by a road sign, road marking or a traffic or police officer.
  • Next to or opposite construction in progress.
  • In or closer than 6 metres to a tunnel, a subway, a bridge or a roadway that has been minimised.
  • Closer than 9 metres to a pedestrian crossing , other than to allow pedestrians to cross.
  • Facing oncoming traffic.
  • Next to another vehicle where the road is narrower than 9 metres.
  • Within the railway reserve at a level crossing – always stop behind the white solid line. If no line is visible then you must stop 3 metres away from the reserve.

Compulsory stops

You must stop your vehicle under the following conditions:

  • At the steady red light of a robot.
  • When approaching a stop sign.
  • If instructed by a traffic officer.
  • When stopped by someone leading or driving farm animals on the road.
  • If stopped by a scholar patrol.
  • At a pedestrian crossing where pedestrians are in or are about to enter your half of the roadway.
  • If your vehicle has been involved in a collision.

No Parking Areas

You may not park in the following areas:

  • In a no stopping area demarcated by a road sign or road marking.
  • Where forbidden by a traffic or police officer.
  • With any wheel more than 450mm away from the kerb or roadway edge in an urban area.
  • Or within 1 metre of the road edge on a road outside an urban area.
  • On the road adjacent to a fire hydrant or closer than 1.5 metres on either side of a fire hydrant.
  • Within 5 metres of an intersection in an urban area unless permitted by a road sign.
  • On a two-way road that is narrower than 5.5 metres in an urban area.
  • On or partially on a sidewalk or pavement.
  • Where the vehicle would block the view of a road sign or road marking for other road users.
  • Over the actuating mechanism of a traffic light in an urban area.
  • On or partially on a traffic island or painted island.
  • In a pedestrian mall or a pedestrian lane.
  • Across or in front of a private or public vehicle entrance.

Abandoned vehicles

Your vehicle may be considered abandoned and may be towed away under the following circumstances:

  • If your vehicle is illegally parked.
  • When your vehicle has been parked for seven days or more in the same place on an urban road or on the site of a testing station.
  • In a scenario where your vehicle has been parked for 24 hours or more in the same public place or road outside an urban area.
  • At a time when your vehicle is found on a public road without a legal registration number.
  • If the ownership of your vehicle cannot be identified.
  • When your vehicle is dangerously parked or likely to cause an obstruction.

Conveying goods

When conveying (transporting) goods:

  • You must securely fasten goods to your vehicle.
  • Your load must not exceed half the height of cars if carried on the roof unless it is your bicycle.
  • For goods vehicles, their load must not be more than 4.3 metres from the ground.
  • The width of your load and your vehicle must not exceed 2.6 metres for vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of 12 000kg and 2.5 metres for all other vehicles.
  • Make sure your load does not project more than 1.8 metres beyond the rear of your vehicle.

For projections of goods that are more than 150mm from the sides of the vehicle and to indicate the width of the load:

  • You must, during the day, fix a red flag 300mm x 300mm at each corner of your load.
  • From sunset to sunrise reflectors must be used at each corner of your load. Red reflectors at the back and white reflectors in the front.

Passengers are allowed on the back of a van or truck if:

  • The sides of your vehicle are 350mm above the seating surface for seated passengers.
  • Also, the sides of your vehicle are 900mm above the floor surface when passengers are standing.
  • You may transport one person for every 380mm as measured along the back length of the seat at seat level.

For more information on the rules of the road read the K53 rules of the road and rules of the road 3 articles or practice the rules of the road test.

Road rules, the last part

Road rules, the last part

Road rules, the last part

Rules of the road 3 is the second part of the k53 rules of the road.

Pedestrian crossings

Rules for pedestrians:

  • Don’t suddenly enter a pedestrian crossing in a manner that makes it impossible or dangerous for a driver to give right of way in good time.
  • Where there is a robot at a pedestrian crossing, you must cross only in accordance with the signals of the robot.
  • You must not walk on the roadway if there is a sidewalk or footpath next to the road.
  • If there is no sidewalk or footpath next to the road, walk close to the edge of the right-hand side of the roadway facing oncoming traffic.
  • Be sure it is safe to cross the road before you do so. Cross the road quickly without lingering and without running.
  • Do not cross a road at a place within 50 metres of a pedestrian crossing.

Rules for drivers:

  • You must not pass or overtake a vehicle that is stationary at a pedestrian crossing.
  • For pedestrians who are already on a pedestrian crossing you must give way.
  • If pedestrians who are about to enter your half of the roadway you must give way to them.

View the video below on how to approach  pedestrian corssings

Collisions & accidents

First, if you are involved in a collision or accident you must:

  • Stop your vehicle immediately.
  • You must see if anyone is injured.
  • If possible, you can assist the injured.
  • You must see what damage has been done to the vehicles and the surrounding area.
  • Report the collision to a police station within 24 hours and present your driver’s license and green barcoded ID book.
  • Obtain permission from the owner, driver or other authorised people before your or another vehicle may be removed from the scene.

Secondly, if someone involved in the accident has been injured or there is a fatality:

  • You should get in touch with a police officer immediately.
  • Unless nobody has been injured, the vehicle is completely obstructing traffic and provided the vehicle’s positions have been clearly marked on the road surface before doing so, you may not remove any vehicle without the authority of a police officer.

Finally, have the following information available with you:

  • Your name and address.
  • Name and adress of the vehicle owner.
  • The vehicle registration numbers.
  • Your driver’s license.
  • Your insurance company details.


  • The tread on tyres must be 1mm deep over the full circumference of the tyre.
  • The canvas cord must not be visible on the tyre’s surface.
  • Sidewalls must be free of deep cuts, lumps or bulges.


Don’t start the engine or let the engine run in when the vehicle is:

  • Stationary and unattended.
  • Emitting excessive smoke.
  • Not under the driver’s control.
  • Being filled with fuel or if the fuel cap is not closed.


  • Only hoot for safety reasons.
  • The hooter must be heard up to 90m away.
  • The pitch of the hooter may not vary.

Communication devices

  • Don’t hold or operate a hand-held device while driving.
  • You may use a hand-held device only if it is not being held in your hand.
  • This does not apply to drivers engaged in official emergency services.

General duties

  • Don’t allow any passenger, animal or object to hamper the driver’s ability to drive safely.
  • Passengers may not take hold of the steering wheel or the operating controls unless the driver is no longer capable of driving.
  • No one must have any part of their body protruding from the vehicle except the driver when giving hand signals.
  • The drivers seating position must allow full control of the vehicle and a clear view of the road ahead.
  • Don’t allow any animal or person to occupy the roof step or running board while the vehicle is moving.
  • You cannot allow anyone to get into or out of the vehicle while the vehicle is moving.

For more information on the rules of the road read the K53 rules of the road and rules of the road 2 articles. Practice the rules of the road test.

Road signs in South Africa

Road signs in South Africa

Road signs in South Africa

K53 road signs are grouped into the following categories:

  1. Guidance and information signs
  2. Regulatory signs
  3. Warning signs
  4. Temporary signs

Guidance and information signs

Guidance and information signs are grouped as follows:

  1. Location signs
  2. Route marker signs
  3. Direction signs
  4. Tourism signs
  5. Diagrammatic signs
  6. Information signs

Location signs

Display the name of the place you have reached or are about to reach.
Some signs are grouped with a symbol to indicate the type of location you are in.

Route marker signs

Indicate a particular route or the direction you need to travel to get to a particular route.

Direction signs

Indicate the direction to places and routes.
Many of these signs are combinations of several direction and route marker signs.

Tourism signs

Give you direction and information as a tourist on places of interest, services or rest facilities.

Diagrammatic signs

Indicate the pattern of traffic lanes ahead of you or important instructional information. The below sign is instructing heavy goods vehicles to engage a lower gear.

Information signs

Display general information. The sign below indicates they the turn to the left is a dead-end.

Regulatory road signs

Regulatory road signs are categorised as follows:

  1. Control signs
  2. Command signs
  3. Prohibition and limit signs
  4. Reservation signs
  5. Exclusive secondary signs
  6. Comprehensive signs
  7. De-restriction signs

Control signs

Control the actions of you the driver. The stop sign is an example of a control sign. When you see this sign you must bring your vehicle to a complete stop.

Command signs

You must follow the indication for an action that must be taken.
This sign indicates you must travel at a minimum speed of 50km/h.

Prohibition & limitation signs

Prohibit you from performing certain actions.

Instruct you as to the limits you must adhere to. In this example the sign is a regulatory limit sign limiting you to a speed of 100km/h.

Reservation signs

Indicate that the roadway, lane or parking area you are using is reserved for certain classes of vehicles only.

Exclusive secondary signs

Grouped with any one of the regulatory signs to indicate to you that the regulatory sign applies only to that specific situation.

In this example, the exclusive secondary sign is the motorcycle illustration. It has been grouped with a regulatory limit sign.

The signs indicate that you must drive at a speed limit of 100km/h but that this limit only applies motorcycles.

Comprehensive signs

Comprehensive signs indicate that you are about to enter a roadway or area that is governed by a comprehensive set of rules.

This sign indicates you are entering a residential area and that children may be at play.

De-restriction signs

De-restriction signs indicate that you are about to exit a roadway or area which is governed by a comprehensive set of rules.

Watch the video on how to respond to yield signs below.

Warning signs

Warning signs are categorised as follows:

  1. Direction of travel signs
  2. Symbolic signs
  3. Hazard warning markers
  4. Road layout signs

Direction of travel signs

Indicate the direction of travel that lies ahead by using arrows. In this example, the sign is indicating a warning to you that there is a roundabout ahead. You can see from the arrows that the direction of travel is in a circular direction.

Symbolic signs

Use symbols to indicate the nature of what lies ahead of you. In this example the symbol used is actually a control sign (stop). The warning sign is indicating to you that there is a stop street ahead of you. This way you are not taken by surprise with a sudden stop.

Hazard warning markers

Enhance the safety for drivers and are placed at or near a hazard to indicate the position of the hazard.In this example the hazard is to the left.

Road layout signs

Indicate the layout of the road ahead. In this example the sign is warning you that the two lane road you are travelling on ahead will begin to split.

For more information practice the K53 road signs tests-the guidance & information signs test, regulatory road signs test and the warning road signs test.

Road markings in South Africa

Road markings in South Africa

Road markings in South Africa

K53 road markings are split into the following categories:

  1. Regulatory road markings
  2. Longitudinal regulatory road markings
  3. Exclusive parking bay symbols
  4. Road guidance markings
  5. Road warning markings

Regulatory k53 road markings

Stop line

You must bring your vehicle to a complete stop just before the line.

Yield line

When you see this road marking you must give right of way to all vehicles that cross in front of you. This line has the same meaning as the yield sign.

Bus lane

The yellow dotted line indicates that this lane is reserved for buses only.

Pedestrian crossing ahead

Be cautious as you approach this area and stop if there are pedestrians crossing or are about to cross the road.

Box junction

Put simply, you may not stop in the yellow area.

Longitudinal regulatory road markings

Left & right edge line

You may not drive inside the right or left edge line unless it is an emergency lane (yellow line) and you have an emergency.

Painted island

You may only drive in this area if instructed to by a police officer, in an emergency or to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Pedestrian crossing line

When approaching a pedestrian crossing you may not stop in this area except for pedestrians already crossing here or wanting to cross here.

Mandatory direction arrows

When you approach these arrows you may not stop in the yellow area and you must travel in the direction of the arrow.

Exclusive parking bay markings


Only official emergency ambulance vehicles may park in the specified parking zone as indicated by the symbol.


When you see this symbol in a parking bay it indicates that only buses may park in the specified parking zone.


This unique symbol indicates that only official diplomatic vehicles may park in this parking area.


You guessed it! Only minibuses may park in this parking area.

Road guidance markings

Bicycle crossing lines

When you see this marking on the road be cautious of cyclists crossing the road. Treat this area the same as a pedestrian crossing.

Furcation arrows

These arrows indicate that there is going to be an increase in the number of lanes ahead.


You will come across these lines (represented by the dotted lines) at major intersections. They will assist in guiding you along the correct route at those intersections.

Road Warning Markers

Speed bump marker

You may want to slow down when you see this marker as you will be travelling over a speed bump.

Arrestor bed ahead

These road markings are to signal to drivers of heavy goods vehicles that there is an arrestor bed available. Arrestor beds are emergency stops for heavy goods vehicles.

Railway crossing ahead

This big white ‘x’ on the road surface is there to indicate to you to take caution as you are approaching a railway crossing.

Yield control ahead

The triangle illustrated here as the same meaning as a yield sign. when you see this marking you must slow down and make way for approaching traffic in front of you.

For more on k53 road markings practice the road markings and traffic signals test.