Roadside Advertising and Construction

Ever wondered how many accidents have been caused – or nearly caused – because a driver’s attention has been diverted to advertisements on the roadside? On the other hand, that would not be the fault of the advertisers, whose combined use of this media must account for millions of rands. In the United Kingdom, for example, roadside advertising generated £484 million in 2013 alone.1

The Advertising on Roads and Ribbon Development Act 1940 regulates the display of advertisements at places visible from public roads, and also deals with (such different) issues as abandoned machinery, refuse and construction near public roads.

The administration of the Act has been delegated to each of the provincial governments. It relates only to public roads, which means all roads declared to be public roads, excluding national roads as defined in the National Roads Act 1971.2

A. Advertisements

‘Advertisement’ means any visible representation:

It also means any light which is not intended solely for illumination, or as a warning against danger.3

  1. It is a criminal offence to display an advertisement which is visible from a public road, unless in accordance with the permission of the provincial administration controlling authority.4 5

  2. If an advertisement is displayed without permission, or it does not conform to the conditions and specifications prescribed in the permission, the provincial administration controlling authority can, by notice, direct the person displaying the advertisement to:6

    • remove it; or
    • effect such alterations as may be prescribed in the notice.

    If the person who has been so directed fails to comply with the direction, the controlling authority may take steps to effect such removal or alteration, the costs of which can be recovered from the person who failed to comply with the direction.7It is an offence not to comply with such a notice.8

B. Abandoned vehicles, machines and rubbish

  1. It is a crime to deposit or leave, within a distance of 200 metres of the centre line of any public road which is outside an urban area, so that it is visible from that road, any rubbish, or a disused vehicle or machine or a part thereof, except with written permission from the provincial administration controlling authority.9

  2. If someone has done so (but not on a public road) the provincial administration controlling authority can direct him to remove or destroy the object or substance, and it is an offence to fail to comply with such direction.10 11

C. Structures12

  1. It is an offence to erect any structure (or any other thing) within 95 metres from the centre line of a road which has been declared by the provincial administration to be a ‘building restriction road’, except with written permission from the provincial administration controlling authority.13

  2. It is an offence to permit the erection of such a structure.14

  3. It is an offence to construct, or lay anything below the surface of any land, within the same 95 metre zone, without such permission. It is also an offence to allow this to happen.15

  4. It is an offence to make, or allow, any structural alteration to any such structure or thing as contemplated above, without written permission from the provincial administration controlling authority.16
  5. If the provincial administration controlling authority issues any directive in respect of a structure or thing erected (etc.) in contravention of the above provisions (and the provision below), failure to comply therewith is also an offence.

  6. The erection of structures, the construction of other things, and alterations to either is also prohibited, within 500 metres from the intersection of the centre line of a declared building restriction road and another road – without written permission.17

  7. It is an offence to construct any gate, bridge, stile or other means of access or exit to or from any land near the edge of a declared building restriction road which is outside an urban area.18

  2. This is not a helpful definition because the National Roads Act 191 contains one short section about fuel levies and has no definition of ‘national road’ at all. It is reasonable to assume it might mean the roads we know as N1, N2, N3, etc. 

  3. The traditional red light of a whorehouse was conceivably in the legislator’s mind, back in 1940. Of course, that light was both an advertisement and, it might be argued by married patrons, a warning against danger. 

  4. There are exemptions: if it is the name of the business or its nature, or the name of a farm, or the name of a property, or a warning, or a request to close the gate. 

  5. Section 2 read with section 15. 

  6. Section 4(1). 

  7. Section 4(2) and 4(3). 

  8. Section 15. 

  9. Section 8(1). 

  10. Section 15. 

  11. Section 8(3). 

  12. There are certain exemptions from these prohibitions, set out in section 9 of the Act. 

  13. Section 9(1). 

  14. Section 15. 

  15. Section 9(1). 

  16. Section 9(1). 

  17. Section 9A. 

  18. Section 10.