Old rules give way to common sense with proposed rule changes

The public is being consulted on proposed changes to give way rules.

Proposed changes to New Zealand’s give way rules released for public comment today are expected to reduce intersection crashes and improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, the NZ Transport Agency says.

New Zealand’s current give-way rules place complex demands on road users, and changes were identified last year as a road safety priority in the Government’s 10 year Safer Journeys road safety strategy.

Intersection crashes currently account for 17 percent of fatal crashes on New Zealand roads, and over 80 percent of intersection crashes causing injuries occur in urban areas. In the ten years to 2009, the number of crashes involving pedestrians and turning vehicles at intersections doubled.

It is expected that the proposed changes to the give-way rules will reduce intersection crashes and improve safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists, as the proposed changes will result in less complex decision-making at intersections.

When in doubt give way to the right generally applies on our roads so in theory a vehicle turning left at an intersection should give way to an on-coming one turning right.

But it doesn’t work well in practice. It requires the driver of the left turning vehicle to check mirrors to ensure there’s no vehicle approaching from behind to which the on-coming one would have to give way; and the right turning vehicle has to be certain the left turning one is going to yield. This leads to hesitation and confusion.

Giving the left turning vehicle right of way is merely applying the guiding principle of right turning vehicles gives way to all other traffic.

The other change applies to who gives way at T-intersections. At the moment a vehicle on the through road turning right gives way to one turning right from the trunk road which often leads to congestion as it holds up traffic behind.

Both changes ought to make traffic flow more easily after the initial inevitable period of confusion, when most drivers will hesitate because  either they won’t be sure whether or not they have the right of way or  whether or not the other driver will yield to them.

If you want to check your knowledge of current give way rules, the NZ Transport agency has activity cards here. I got all but # 11 right.

4 Responses to Old rules give way to common sense with proposed rule changes

  1. Jeff Grigor says:

    This is the clearest explanation I have read of why this law should be changed.The only thing I would add is that many overseas visitors have commented to me that it is the one NZ road law they have difficulty with as it is the opposite of the law in their own country.I wonder how many accidents could be attributed to it since it was introduced I think about 25 years ago.I was once told that we copied the law from Victoria and that it was only in use there because of the trams in Melbourne.Can anyone verify this.


  2. homepaddock says:

    I think you’re right about copying it from Victoria – and that they changed it back because it caused too much confusion and too many accidents.

    I remember an unusual (to us) road rule in Melbourne when we were there in 1994 but can’t remember the details and whether it had anything to do with trams.


  3. gravedodger says:

    While we are going to create a period of confusion and a mini bonanza for the panel beaters are we going to ignore a potential opportunity to reduce congestion and allow a “give way left turn on a red light”. This simple move has a two fold benefit in clearing traffic waiting and encouraging a move to better planning for crosstown traffic by utilising a little extra left turning in trips and avoiding right turns at very high traffic flow intersections.


  4. homepaddock says:

    Good idea GD – some other countries allow left-turning drivers to treat a red light as a give way rather than stop sign.


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