CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Kiwi Kommuters in Krossing Kerfuffle, Khronikles Kent

Reader Kent (sorry about the headline, mate) writes in from New Zealand to comment on a quite controversial traffic rule, which seems as if it may be on the outs. As the image above shows, at uncontrolled intersections the car making a left turn (remember, they drive on the other side of the road, folks) must yield to an oncoming vehicle waiting to make a right turn across the intersection.

Judging by articles like this one, which clocked hundreds of violations at a single crossing, this is a law that is in serious conflict with the social norms.

The government is now looking into altering the law:

He said an initial analysis of a rule-change proposal in 2004 estimated it would mean at least eight to 24 fewer intersection casualty crashes a year.

Another ministry official confirmed later that the figure could be as high as 56 fewer injury crashes, yielding annual social cost savings of $12.8 million a year, if intersection safety improved as much as it did in Victoria after that Australian state reversed a similar rule in 1993.

Kent thought this practice might be called the “shortest radius” rule, and he speculates it had something to do with farm implements. He’s not sure where and when (and why) the practice began — any NZ engineers out there who can enlighten us?

The New Zealand Herald article notes this curious observation:

Left-turning drivers appeared to rely more on the whites of the eyes of those lining up in the opposing direction, rather than checking rear mirrors to see whether there were straight-heading vehicles behind to lend them cover.

Institution of Professional Engineers transport group chairman Bruce Conaghan believes it too risky to rely on left-turning traffic to predict the intentions of vehicles behind them, and says right-turning drivers have a far safer vantage point from which to judge when it is safe to go.

Maybe it’s late in the day here, and my head’s all turned round with this “wrong” side of the road stuff, but does this mean drivers can turn left on a multi-lane street from the lane not closest to the corner — i.e., so they’d be making a left turn across a stream of “inside lane” traffic that might be continuing straight from behind? That’s what I’m discerning from the quote above, but I may have it all wrong.

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 at 5:09 pm and is filed under Cars, Traffic Engineering, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Kiwi Kommuters in Krossing Kerfuffle, Khronikles Kent”

  1. Brian Ogilvie Says:

    My guess is that the law was written when there were very few if any multi-lane roads in NZ and the goal was to prevent a long row of cars from getting stuck behind the right-turning vehicle. It doesn’t make sense to require cars going straight through to yield, but if someone is turning left, they have to slow anyway, and then the driver of the right-turning car can turn first, freeing the cars behind him or her to proceed.

    I’ve seen enough analogous situations in the not-quite-rural-anymore environs of western Massachusetts: lots of cars piled up, stationary, behind a left-turning driver who can never get enough of a break in the traffic to make that turn. We have a local custom that the first one or two left-turners at a stoplight that has just turned green will make their left turn ahead of oncoming through traffic. I’m presuming it’s because they can clear the intersection safely (especially if the oncoming drivers expect it) and thereby allow the drivers behind them to proceed. It drove me nuts when I first moved here but now I’m used to it.

  2. LarryH Says:

    As shown in the diagram at the top the driver in the blue car, must give way to the driver in the red car, except if it is a multilane road and there is another vehicle traveling in the same direction as the blue car and is overtaking the blue car and continuing on straight. In this case it is not safe for the red car to turn, so the blue car can go. Checking for this third car is what the article was refering to, by watching the eyes of the red car driver. The red car will be in the center lane on his side of the street, or on the flush median.

    I drove for 10 years before coming to NZ, and this is still one rule I have to think about.

  3. Tom Vanderbilt Says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Larry; for some reason I was having trouble getting my head around that one. And Brian raises a good point too, which is echoed in the New Zealand case — the emergence of local traffic “customs” which more or less can work fine until a non-native driver comes along. As the post about the maps with traffic laws shows, there can be considerable difference state to state (things like the permissibility of u-turns, etc.).

  4. Rich Wilson Says:

    What do you mean “(remember, they drive on the other side of the road, folks)”. Ok, that’s rhetorical. I know what you mean. But isn’t ‘other’ a matter of perspective?

  5. Geis Says:

    This remonded me of the Pittsburgh Left. For those not in the know, here in Pittsburgh (and apparently as mentioned above in Massachusetts as well) someone making a turn across traffic may jump the light rather than be held back my opposing traffic advancing straight through the intersection. There is also a more friendly version of the Pittsburgh Left wherein the driver going straight pauses when the light turns green to allow the opposing car the chance to turn. My daughter failed her first driving test (not taken in Pittsburgh) because she came to an intersection at the same time as a truck coming from the opposite direction and instead of claiming the right of way, allowed the other driver to turn. I was upset because she was being penalized for being courteous and generous.

  6. Daniel Says:

    The two problems I see with being “courteous and generous” in this case is that 1) you are not respecting simple priority rules, thus possibly confusing the opposite left turning truck who is waiting for you to move, and 2) you are blocking the way for the drivers behind you, who are also expecting you to move. I don’t think anyone should fail a driving test just for doing that (and God knows there is a lack of courtesy on the roads), but IMHO that is not a correct way to be courteous.

  7. geografree Says:

    I find the “courteous” discussion interesting. As a cyclist I’m often on the losing end of drivers being courteous to each other. For example, on congested arterials drivers flash their lights and slow to let turning cars pass in front of them. Of course the drivers can’t see all the other participants in the roadway including bicyclist travelling on the outside shared area.

  8. Allister Says:

    Hi. A bit late to this discussion but I have just been pointed to it.

    The rule was introduced after Victoria, Australia introduced it and because they introduced it. Well, I’m sure there was another initial reasoning, but that is often mentioned.

    What you must realise about Kiwis is that we are, on average, terrible drivers. Pick just about any basic rule and I will show you people breaking it every day. Even something as simple as a red traffic light.

    I have stated my case on my blog (http://sittingduck.co.nz/blog/2009/08/19/right-of-reply-on-right-of-way/) that I don’t believe we need to change the rule and I do not expect it to achieve anything other than a period of confusion when the change is made.

    The short answer is that if everyone follows the rules for a start, there would not be anywhere near the number of problems we currently have. All of the reasons being cited for the change (which is now definitely going to happen) are ridiculous, as explained in my blog post. While I don’t really mind which rule is in force, I vehemently disagree with changing anything for dubious reasons, as change, in itself, is a factor we can do without in this nation of lousy drivers.

  9. Allister Says:

    I should add, that I have found debating this subject to be an interesting experience. People who agree with me are very vocal about it. People who disagree with me won’t continue the debate beyond a few short exchanges. This tells me that most are willing to believe their government knows what’s best for them – even though many previous governments did not agree. Sad, really.

Leave a Reply

Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Google] [MySpace] [Slashdot] [StumbleUpon] [Yahoo!]
Twitter
March 2009
M T W T F S S
« Feb   Apr »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031