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New give way rules introduced today

Published: 6:14AM Sunday March 25, 2012 Source: ONE News

New Zealand's give way rules were brought into line with the rest of the world this morning.

As of 5am right-turning traffic has to yield to oncoming left-turning traffic at intersections, and at uncontrolled T-intersections think top of the T goes before me.

It is the biggest rule changes for motorists in decades and The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is urging drivers to be patient and courteous when they hit the road today.

Experts say the changes will likely see drivers slow down as they adjust, so travel times today and next week could be longer than usual.

NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said there will be crashes at intersections today, and there will be crashes at intersections next week, but there are dozens of crashes at intersections every single day of the year.

NZTA figures show there are more than 16,000 crashes at intersections each year, which equates to over 300 a week, or 45 a day.

Knackstead told TV ONE's Breakfast although "it is not a magic bullet" it is hoped the new rules will knock those figures down in the long run.

Knackstead said the NZTA has asked local authorities to look at intersections and possibly phasing in traffic lights if stacks of people are left lining up at intersections when they try to turn right.

A $1.2 million campaign has prepared Kiwis for the change through the internet, TV advertising and pamphlets.

New Zealand Transport Authority chief Geoff Dangerfield says the message is getting through to the public.

"The big message now is for Sunday, for people to be courteous and patient as we all get used to this new rule," Dangerfield said.

'Softly softly approach'

Road policing manager Rob Morgan said they will not be handing out fines immediately to drivers confused by the change.

"Our instruction out there is to take a softly softly approach, to educate the public," Morgan said.

"We understand this will be a process over time."

Knackstead said NZTA has not asked police to provide more resources this morning and they are happy with the support they have received from police.

"They are taking an educative approach, they are not going to be giving out tickets they are going to be giving out brochures and pamphlets."

In a ONE Close Up poll on Friday, which asked viewers how confident they were that they understood the new rules, 60% responded they were confident and 40% that they were not.

Insurance claims spike expected

If collisions occur, insurance companies are likely to back drivers, Chris Ryan from the Insurance Council said.

"When any particular road rule changes and people have to get out of their normal habits of driving on the roads and adapt to a new rule we do see a slight spike in insurance claims," said Ryan.

"They are usually relatively minor claims and they are usually dealt with pretty sympathetically by the insurance companies."

Click here for information on the rules changes.