Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Road-rule chaos looms for NZ drivers

From 5am this Sunday, drivers turning right must give way to oncoming traffic turning left into the same street.  Photo / Amos Chapple
From 5am this Sunday, drivers turning right must give way to oncoming traffic turning left into the same street. Photo / Amos Chapple

Reversal of give-way rules on New Zealand roads is six days away - and many motorists are still confused about who should yield to whom.

From 5am this Sunday, drivers turning right must give way to oncoming traffic turning left into the same street.

And drivers approaching the end of a road at a "T" intersection must give way to traffic turning toward them into the road.

Most of 67 people surveyed yesterday by the Herald in three main centres, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, knew the rule changes were coming.

But just over half made at least one error in identifying which car should give way when they were presented with three test situations.

The Transport Agency has chosen to educate drivers on the changes in just 10 days through an advertising "blitz" that began on Thursday.

Chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said the $1.2 million campaign had been timed carefully to avoid drivers switching to the new rules too early.

"We're keeping the messages simple - the advertising focuses on the date of the change and gives a simple overview of what the two new rules are."

The approach has some critics, including Clive Matthew-Wilson, the editor of the car review website dogandlemon.com.

"This campaign is trying to change a lifetime of driving habits in just a couple of weeks. That's not going to happen," said Mr Matthew-Wilson.

The campaign budget was tiny by modern standards, and relying on only television advertising and leaflets would miss many people, he said.

"I predict widespread confusion for weeks after the give way rule change, and probably quite a few minor accidents. Perhaps a few major ones."

In the informal Herald poll, 96 per cent of respondents knew changes were coming and about three-quarters knew when they would take effect.

But less than 50 per cent correctly identified which car should give way in all three of the situations provided as examples by the transport agency.

"We have already got too many tricky rules for them to go and add another one contradicting them," said Rebecca Kasper, 27, of Hamilton.

"It's different for adults who have been driving for 30-odd years who have got it set because one rule change won't matter. I'm imagining that for teenagers just learning it is going to be harder."

Kim Tasker, 18, of Auckland, is still working toward her learner's licence and struggled with all three situations.

Mat Jennings, 28, said: "It's going to be pretty confusing. I'm sure it's going to cause a lot of accidents."

The three situations were two cars turning right at a "T" intersection, two oncoming cars turning into the same street at an uncontrolled intersection, and two oncoming cars turning into the same street from stop signs.

The answer in each situation was correctly identified by at least 70 per cent of respondents.

But 36 of the 67 people got at least one of the answers wrong.

A survey of 6000 Automobile Association members found about four-fifths were confident in their ability to follow the new rules.

But in an nzherald.co.nz online poll of 22,689 readers, taken before the NZTA campaign started, a third of respondents said they did not understand the rules.

When similar changes were adopted in Victoria, Australia, in 1993, they resulted in a 7.1 per cent reduction in crashes at intersections.

- NZ Herald

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