Right-to-life plea fails to sway Samoan court in road appeal

By Gwynne Dyer

Samoans have been no choice but to embrace a controversial switch to driving on the left side of the road after a legal bid failed.

A court in the Pacific nation has ruled that residents will make the change to the left on September 7 to be better aligned with Australian and New Zealand driving regulations.

But many will do so begrudgingly, with up to a third of the country's 180,000-strong population opposed to the switch, claiming it is dangerous and pointless.

The movement People Against Switching Sides (Pass) argued in Samoa's Supreme Court that the switch threatened the country's constitutional right to life.

Justice Vui Clarence Nelson disagreed, saying it was not proven that more accidents would mean more road fatalities: 'The evidence lacks that clarity and is insufficient in my view to draw that conclusion."

Anti-switch sentiment has been brewing for some time. Local bus owners are furious at having to install new doors so passengers do not have to get off in the middle of the road, and two villages have threatened to stop traffic if it drives on the left.

Dozens of new signs instructing drivers to "keep left" have been vandalised and an area set aside for driving practice under the new rules has not been used.

Samoa, which has driven on the right for more than a century, is the first country to attempt a switch in almost 40 years.

It is the brainchild of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who hopes the 180,000 Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand will send cars home to replace gas-guzzling left-hand drives.

- AAP

SEE ALSOSamoans told right now wrong - Gwynne Dyer, A11

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