Too many Auckland drivers are asserting the might-is-right principle of forcing their way left around corners in defiance of traffic waiting to turn right.
An hour-long Herald survey yesterday afternoon of a busy Mt Roskill intersection - an exercise which felt akin to a road-safety television ad featuring a black-robed figure spinning a roulette wheel at traffic - found 25 breaches of the problematic give-way rule for left-turning vehicles.
Those in breach of the rule, for which they could have been fined $150, represented more than 10 per cent of 235 left-turning vehicles counted at the T-junction of May Rd and Mt Albert Rd between 2.45pm and 3.45pm.
Of 3822 readers who responded to an online poll by the newspaper at the weekend, 62 per cent said the rule should be scrapped in a review of intersection safety the Ministry of Transport plans next year.
That follows calls by the Automobile Association and the transport arm of the Institution of Professional Engineers for New Zealand to fall back in line with international practice, and to restore the right of way which left-turning vehicles lost in 1977.
Fortunately, the Herald's roulette wheel hit the red danger zone only once, when two vehicles came within less than a metre of colliding after turning into May Rd from opposite directions.
Most right-turning vehicles surrendered their rights when faced off by traffic forcing its way into the intersection, such as a rubbish truck which barrelled left into May Rd, keeping three cars waiting in Mt Albert Rd.
Similarly, a right-turning truck was held up by an empty school bus which barged into May Rd at 3pm, possibly running late for the bell.
But one driver, unwilling to be brow-beaten, kept turning right as an opposing vehicle refused to give way or even to apply its brakes while swinging left into May Rd.
The right-turning car made it across first, as the opposing driver's brakes appeared to lock, narrowly avoiding a smash.
"He seemed to have no intention of stopping," said a Herald photographer on the footpath.
Although many left turns into May Rd were covered by traffic heading straight down Mt Albert Rd, meaning opposing vehicles had to wait anyway, drivers' assessments of when it was safe to go seemed haphazard.
Left-turning drivers appeared to rely more on the whites of the eyes of those lining up in the opposing direction, rather than checking rear mirrors to see whether there were straight-heading vehicles behind to lend them cover.
Institution of Professional Engineers transport group chairman Bruce Conaghan believes it too risky to rely on left-turning traffic to predict the intentions of vehicles behind them, and says right-turning drivers have a far safer vantage point from which to judge when it is safe to go.
In a submission to the Government in October, he said changing the rule would be consistent with motorists' intuitive expectations as observed at urban intersections over several years, and would provide consistency for overseas drivers who may not have encountered it before.
But a consultant engineer who worked for the Ministry of Transport when the give way rule was introduced 31 years ago defended it in an email to the Herald as a sensible measure designed to improve traffic flow.