Right hand rule not the right rule - AA
Last updated 16:36 18/08/2009

The notorious right hand rule should be consigned to the dustbin as a bad idea and if Australia can do it, so can we, says the Automobile Association.

New Zealand is the only country in the world with the right hand rule if cars are turning they give way to all traffic not turning, and in all other situations, give way to traffic crossing or approaching from the right.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce released the "Safer Journeys" discussion document today, throwing up more than 60 suggested changes to laws, regulations and policies to reduce the road toll.

One change could be making right turning cars give way to traffic turning left into the same road, which would give drivers less to think about.

It is estimated this could reduce intersection crashes by 7 percent, though it would take a $2 million education campaign to get drivers used to the idea, and $1 million to make changes to road signs and road markings.

According to the AA, New Zealand's give way rules are a factor in 2560 intersection crashes and one or two deaths each year.

"It's basically ridiculous that New Zealand has got a different rule to everyone else in the world," said AA spokesman Mike Noon.

The AA had long lobbied for the right hand rule to be changed, he said.

It was introduced here in 1977 and originally came from Melbourne where it assisted trams.

Here it was seen as a way to deal with a large number of intersections, before many intersections were replaced with roundabouts, Mr Noon said.

Melbourne has since got rid of the rule but in New Zealand attempts to also revoke, supported by Ministry of Transport, Minister of Transport Safety, police, local government, Institute of Professional Engineers, cycling groups, and the AA, have been voted down by Cabinet as "too hard for the public to cope with".

Mr Noon said the rule was confusing for the more than 1 million tourists that visited New Zealand each year and New Zealanders travelling all over the planet.

The rule was responsible for a lot of side impact accidents, where the driver was not well protected.

One newspaper survey showed 20 percent of drivers did not observe it, he said.

"In most cases he who is bravest goes first and gets across."

Australia managed to get rid of the rule in 1993 without too much trouble, he said.

From here.