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.

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. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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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.

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May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
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Metropolis and Mobile Life
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