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Herald on Sunday Editorial: New rules put our courtesy to test

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Today is the day the give-way rules change. How has your experience been? Tell us what you’ve seen on the roads.
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Photo / APN
Photo / APN

The change in the road rules that took effect at 5am today has been repeatedly described during the lead-up as the biggest in almost 40 years. Seldom is it mentioned that the last change was the colossal blunder that is today finally being put right.

Nobody liked it to start with, and the Australian state of Victoria, whose lead we inexplicably followed, saw the error of its ways in 1993 and dropped the whole idea.

Only people who learned to drive before the 1970s can remember the unambiguous simplicity of the old "right-hand rule" which has, at last, been restored (with the addition of the new regime for T-intersections).

The now-defunct rule was always bad because it was ambiguous: in requiring a left-turning driver to assess whether following traffic would deny a right-turner the chance to exercise the right of way, it threw both drivers into a game of white-knuckle risk-assessment and mind-reading.

That uncertainty has now ended, but there will be a period of adjustment. It will call on all our reserves of common sense - which New Zealanders have in abundance - and of on-road patience and courtesy, qualities with which we are not richly endowed.

We must all make allowances for some hesitancy and confusion. Drivers who have newly gained the right of way might not always immediately take it; those who have lost precedence might instinctively exercise it. It's important to cut one another plenty of slack: making eye contact with other drivers allows us to signal our intentions clearly, and there will never be harm done by pausing for a second or two.

With a bit of luck, the change will have a salutary effect on our command of defensive driving and good manners. Certainly, it should serve to remind us that - in Auckland particularly, where driving anywhere at any time can be a challenge - we're all in the same boat. Be careful out there - but be kind, too.


Crashes at intersections in New Zealand


Crashes at intersections from 2006 to 2010


- Herald on Sunday

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