Drivers should prepare to unlearn New Zealand's unique, quirky intersection rule which requires left-indicating vehicles to yield to opposing traffic crossing their bows in right-hand turns.

The Government has signalled a change to the rule among probable "first actions" in a road safety strategy which also includes raising the driving age to 16 and banning anyone under 20 from quaffing even just one alcoholic drink before getting behind a wheel.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said last night that, subject to consultation and after a publicity blitz, he would expect the rule changes to be in force by about this time next year.

Mr Joyce said New Zealand was the last remaining jurisdiction to retain the "counter-intuitive" left-turning rule in its road code, after Victoria rescinded its version in 1993, with a resulting reduction in intersection crashes.

This country followed Victoria in 1977 in introducing the rule, which continues to baffle many drivers, locals as well as tourists and new migrants.

A Herald survey on a week-day afternoon in Mt Roskill found 25 breaches of the rule among 235 left-turning vehicles in one hour at May Rd and Mt Albert Rd.

Labour shied away from reversing the rule in 2004, despite advice from the Land Transport Safety Authority of a 3.3 per cent reduction in injury crashes at urban intersections in Victoria after left-turning traffic regained the right of way. The authority said it removed uncertainty of right-turning vehicles trying to anticipate the direction of opposing drivers.

A new Government strategy document issued by Mr Joyce yesterday, Safer Journeys, has set its sights on reducing intersection crashes by 7 per cent for an annual saving of about $17 million in social costs.

It says the rule, by which turning traffic gives way to all vehicles crossing or approaching from the right, puts complex demands on drivers.

Hazards for right-turning traffic include vehicles overtaking left-indicating drivers, and pedestrians and cyclists risk not being noticed and run over in the confusion.

Asked whether changing the rule might cause confusion and therefore extra crashes, Mr Joyce said the collision rate in Victoria fell because of publicity about behaviour around intersections.

Any education campaign is likely to be complicated by another rule change, giving vehicles turning right from a main road at uncontrolled T-junctions right of way over traffic turning right from the secondary road.

Because all vehicles must now give way to the right, traffic from the secondary road has precedence under the current road code.

BRACE YOURSELF
YOUNG DRIVERS
* Raise driving age to 16 by end of year
* Toughen restricted licence test and supervision rule
* Zero drink-drive for under 20s

DRINK-DRIVING
* Zero drink-drive limit for recidivists
* Locks in offenders' vehicles preventing them from starting without alcohol-free breath
* Review the drink drive limit of 80mg
* Review traffic penalties for causing death or serious injury

MOTORCYCLISTS
* Improve rider training and licensing
* Introduce specific licences for moped riders