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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Zealand holiday driving simplified - Stupid rule repealed

Source: Global Travel Media


Self-drive holidays in New Zealand are about to become easier – and safer – for tourists from Australia and elsewhere.

New Zealand has agreed to change its most eccentric road-rule. The country’s Transport Minister Steven Joyce has confirmed that the “confusing” Kiwi give-way rule for turning vehicles will be brought into line with the rest of the world.

The NZ Automobile Association estimates that the wacky give-way rule plays a part in 2560 intersection crashes, and one or twodeaths, each year. As it stands, the New Zealand rule demands that drivers give way to every vehicle approaching or crossing from the right. Even when you are making a simple left-hand turn at a crossroad, a car facing you coming from the opposite direction and turning right has right of way.

About 17% of crashes in New Zealand are at intersections. International tourists driving rental cars or motorhomes are at serious risk if the rule catches them by surprise. Sometimes other vehicles catch them by surprise at the same time.

Introduced in 1977 for obscure reasons, the rule has proved a boon for Kiwi panel-beaters and a major pain for the country’s rental car companies. New Zealand is the only country in the world to have the rule.

Under the changes announced, left-turning traffic will no longer have to give way to right-turning traffic coming towards it. The rule is to be reversed so that the left turning vehicle has right of way – like everywhere else in the world. Right-hand-driving countries observe the same rule in a correspondingly opposite manner.

Similar changes are also planned to the rule for T-intersections, a notorious source of crashes for tourists.

Joyce described NZ’s current rules as “out of step with the rest of the world. Research shows changing the rules could reduce relevant intersection crashes by 7%.”

An online poll conducted by Fairfax media in New Zealand last week indicated that nearly 63% of New Zealanders support the change. Over 15,000 people responded to the online poll.

One problem remains: the changes won’t take effect until early 2012.

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