Give way? Give me a break

22:02, Oct 05 2012

It's now more than six months since the give-way rules changed, which means there's never been a more dangerous time to turn left.

In March, the NZ Transport Agency said a bit of confusion at intersections might be a good thing: people would slow down and perhaps even show some courtesy.

I experienced this myself a few times, but it seems these days are over.

In the past three weeks, I've been cut off twice by wrong-headed right-turners and honked at by another would-be rule-breaker who was slower off the mark.

This third bloke then roared up and tailgated me until the next intersection in Adelaide Rd. I knit my brow and cast you-should-know-better glances in my rear vision mirror.

The problem was, he was pulling the same face. I mouthed: ''You were in the wrong, mate'', but the lights turned green before I could register his response. Judging by the proximity of his bumper to mine, it seemed he could not lip read.


At the next set of lights, he was still behind me. Still drilling holes in the back of my head.

''The rules have changed,'' I said.

I wish I could say I saw the penny drop, but it has a long way to fall for some.

The other day, I read that more people are living in caves today than at any time in history. If so, it seems a fair number of these troglodytes are driving on New Zealand's roads. Even so, it seems unlikely anyone missed the NZTA's 10-day public-service carpet-bombing of our television screens, web browsers, radios, newspapers and mailboxes before the rule change in March.

We all got the message, but for some it never quite sank in. Why is that? Old habits die hard, for sure, but I think the way the changes were advertised might also be to blame.

How was the way we were bombarded by "Top of the T goes before me" different from a big advertising campaign for KFC's Double Down, the London Olympic Games or the damp squib that was The GC?

We've learnt that a certain media saturation can last only so long before it's time for something new (or the same "new", watered down: The Ridges, anyone?). And yet this is how road safety, mental health and fiscal responsibility ("Pay your fines or pay the price") vie for our attention. Is it any wonder we find it hard to remember their messages the moment the ads drop away?

In my more curmudgeonly moods, I wonder if the same is true for the mainstream news cycle. Disaster strikes. Television anchors are choppered in. Front pages are cleared for the next six days. And when the last tear is shed, it's on to the next train wreck. Whatever happened in Darfur in the end? How are the Haitians going?

This cultural amnesia is sticky business, I tell you.

Of course, all it takes is to meet a real refugee or get the give-way rules seriously wrong once and you won't forget again. Here's hoping the penny drops before then.

Craig Cliff is a writer and wary driver. He writes a fortnightly column.

The Dominion Post