Rule change could slow traffic as drivers adjust

16:00, Mar 24 2012

With experts predicting today's changes to the give-way rules will slow down traffic, getting to work tomorrow could take longer than usual.

As of 5am today right-turning traffic has to yield to oncoming left-turning traffic at intersections – a reverse of the give-way rules that have been in place for 35 years.

It is the biggest rule change to confront motorists in decades but psychology expert Associate Professor Deak Helton, from Canterbury University, believes that people will adjust quickly, although he warns traffic is likely to move slower as a result of the change – at least in the short term.

"Everyone is likely to be a bit cautious to start with and that's going to slow down traffic, which could cause some frustrations.

"I suspect there will be some problems with traffic congestion while people get used to the new rules," Helton said.

Automobile Association (AA) motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon is confident that drivers will adapt quickly to the law change but says drivers should show a bit more caution and consideration over the coming days as motorists get used to the change.


"You may know the new rules but other drivers may not, so drivers should be ready to stop at an intersection even if they have the right of way.

"Take an extra moment to make sure what any other vehicles are doing before you go yourself," Noon advised.

Road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson is worried that drivers have not been given enough time to familiarise themselves with the new laws.

He believes the short, sharp publicity campaign run by the New Zealand Transport Agency will have been missed by many people and that attempts to educate the motoring public about the new rules should have begun six months ago."I predict widespread confusion for weeks after the give-way rule change, and probably quite a few minor accidents. Perhaps a few major ones," Matthew-Wilson said.

The new give-way rules introduced today bring New Zealand in line with other countries and are designed to make intersections safer.

Intersection crashes currently account for 20 per cent of the fatal and serious injury crashes on our roads.

When the Australian state of Victoria changed its give-way rules in 1993 its crash rate dropped 7 per cent and experts expect a similar reduction here. That could mean one fewer death, 13 fewer serious injuries and 84 fewer minor injuries from crashes at intersections each year.


All traffic turning right must give way to vehicles coming from the opposite direction and turning left. This applies at crossroads, T-intersections and driveways where both vehicles are facing each other with no signs or signals, or the same signs or signals. It does not apply at intersections with roundabouts.

Think: If you're turning right, give way. At uncontrolled T-intersections all traffic from a terminating road (bottom of the T) must give way to all traffic on a continuing road (top of the T). Think: Top of the T goes before me.

Sunday Star Times