One of the peculiarities of NZ's road rules - which came into being in 1977 - is being changed to match the rest of the world in 2012. The government has confirmed it is changing the "right hand rule" for drivers at intersections. This rule bascially says that when you are turning left at an intersection and you are not governed by traffic lights, then you have to give way to traffic approaching from your right or vehicles coming from the opposite direction which are turning right.
The rule change will mean drivers turning left will be able to go first at an intersection, rather than giving way to traffic turning right.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce says "Our current give way rules for turning vehicles are confusing and out of step with the rest of the world. Research shows changing the rules could reduce relevant intersection crashes by seven percent."
How come it has taken 33 years for Government bureaucrats to work that out? The existing rule was adopted from the Australian state of Victoria which had introduced it to assist trams on Melbourne's streets, according to the Automobile Association (AA). But Victoria changed back in 1993 and experienced a decline in intersection crashes as a result.
Changes are also planned to the rule for T-intersections. This rule applies when there are conflicting right-turns at a T-intersection. Currently, the right-turning vehicle on the terminating road (the base of the 'T') has priority over the right-turning vehicle on the through road (the top of the 'T'). The change will require traffic from an uncontrolled terminating road to give way to traffic on a through road.
Matching the rest of the world might also help many of the thousands of New Zealanders who head overseas and jump into cars, blithely turning right at the first opportunity and wondering why they cop either abuse, or the front of the left turning car.
It is estimated changing the rules to align with other countries will reduce the social cost of accidents by about $17 million a year.
It would improve pedestrian safety at intersections, where there has been an 88% increase since 2000 in pedestrians being hit, many of them hit by a turning vehicle.
AA spokesman Mike Noon said changing the present "ridiculous" rule would require a $2 million driver education programme and engineering changes, such as re-phasing lights and changing road markings in some places, which could cost $1 million.
However, he welcomed the change.
"It's more simple than the current rule. We find people don't obey the rule and some don't know what to do."