40 per cent don't know new rule

By Kristin Edge

Up to 40 per cent of Northlanders say they don't know the new give-way rules that come into force this month.

However, a $1.2 million nationwide publicity campaign is being launched this week to explain the changes.

Police say there will be no lead-in amnesty but discretion will be used for any breaches when new give-way laws come into force on March 25.

Although right-turning vehicles have had the right of way since 1977, there is still considerable confusion among opposing drivers at intersections, and authorities have chosen what they hope will be a quiet Sunday to revert to the previous regime.

But a poll conducted on www.northernadvocate.co.nz found 39 per cent of respondents did not know what the new rules were.

New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Andy Knackstedt said recent surveys by UMR Research and the AA showed there was already high awareness of the changes.

"This is encouraging given the fact that our $1.2 million concentrated advertising campaign hasn't even started," Mr Knackstedt said.

He said the nationwide push promoting awareness of the rule changes started today, 10 days before the rule changed. The campaign will continue through until April 1.

"The media schedule has been designed to achieve the highest possible reach within the budget for our very broad audience of all road users. The campaign includes TV, radio, online and print advertising, along with a leaflet door drop to 1.73 million homes," he said.

In the meantime, a range of information on the changes is available online at the website www.giveway.govt.nz.

Northland's top traffic cop, Inspector Clifford Paxton, said experience had shown when new rules were introduced drivers were very cautious and would make allowances for each other.

But police would watch intersections when the new law came into use and pull over drivers who breached the rules.

"There will be no lead-in amnesty, but Northland police, as always, will use their discretion especially at the outset and will take an educational approach to breaches of the new legislation," Mr Paxton said.

Preparation for the new law has forced many councils to make roading adjustments but no alterations have had to be made in Whangarei.

Whangarei District Council senior roading engineer Greg Monteith confirmed no intersections needed to be changed for the new laws.

Light phasing at the Mill St and Nixon St traffic lights had been altered but drivers would hardly notice the difference, he said. "We'll have to let the new law bed in for a while. There will be a period of uncertainty and people will have to be patient," Mr Monteith said.

Chairman of Roadsafe Northland John Williamson said the give-way rules, whether at intersections, driveways, car parks or roundabouts, caused confusion.

"There are risks in talking about each of these because there is the potential to cause more confusion, but we do need to talk about them because changes are afoot," Mr Williamson said.

The rule change will bring New Zealand into line with the rest of the world by requiring vehicles turning right at intersections to give way to those turning left.

NZTA plans a "short and sharp" campaign so drivers do not start practising too early for the change, causing extra confusion on the roads.

An information evening for those wanting further clarification on the rule changes will be held in Whangarei on March 20 at St John Ambulance Hall, 43 Western Hills Drive from 5.30pm.

Drivers turning right into uncontrolled intersections from terminating roads will also be required to give way to those crossing their paths from the left, also reversing an existing rule.

Both law changes will be reflected in driver licensing tests from March 25 and the NZTA is reminding those who have tests booked after that time to study up on the changes before sitting their tests.

The publicity drive will include a leaflet drop to 1.73 million households and video updates to the giveway.govt.nz website.

Mr Knackstedt said there was a 2.5 per cent rise in intersection accidents after the 1977 rule was introduced, in contrast to a 7.1 per cent drop in Victoria, Australia, after a similar rule was reversed in 1993.

- Northern Advocate

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