By Sanette Viljoen
Nowadays there are beggars at just about every traffic light. What are your rights should you run over such a person if, for instance, you have to swing out for other cars and do not see this person? Some of these beggars sit on the round and somebody in a 4×4 does not always see them.
The answer is that a driver must at all times drive his vehicle in a manner that cannot be seen as reckless or negligent.
Negligent driving is when you do not drive the way the reasonable man would drive. With regard to pedestrians, for example, you must always drive in such a way that you have proper visibility, while you also keep a look-out for pedestrians. In every case I will be judged by the reasonable-man test when I am involved in an accident with a pedestrian. This will, of course, depend on various factors, such as distances, the unexpected actions of pedestrians, emergency situations, the time of day, visibility, etc.
This is exactly the case with beggars. A beggar is just another type of pedestrian. I, as the driver, see the beggar and know that he is standing in the middle of the road. I must therefore take into consideration what his normal movements are or could be. I must drive in such a way that I will avoid running him over.
Every case will be judged on merit. The reason why you did not see the beggar or why the accident happened will be judged on merit by means of the reasonable-man test. This is an objective test that will serve as criterion.
Should the court find that any other person in those circumstances would also not have seen the beggar and would not have been able to avoid the accident, the driver will be found not guilty. However, if the court finds that the driver was driving too fast or that it was reasonably possible to see the beggar and avoid him and that the driver acted negligently, he will, of course, be found guilty and this could lead to culpable homicide should the beggar die.
The court, however, imposes a bigger commitment to carefulness when there are children at the side of the road. In such circumstances extra care must be taken. The reasonable driver would reduce speed and be more careful because the reasonable driver could expect children to act in an irresponsible way. When there are children at the side of the road, expect the worst.