Police ticket dozens for crossing centre line

Dozens of drivers have been ticketed by police after they were snapped on the wrong side of the road on busy South Island tourism route the Devil's Staircase.

Equipped with a camera and long lens, police snapped 49 vehicles, including 19 rental vehicles, crossing the centre line on State Highway 6 between Frankton and Kingston last month.

''It doesn't make me angry; it worries me more than anything else,'' Southern district road policing manager Inspector Andrew Burns said.

''It is only by good luck that we don't have more incidents. Because if someone else was coming around the corner in some of those photos, it may not be a head-on collision, but one or both vehicles are going to swerve to get out of the way.''

He noted the route also attracted about 150 tourist buses travelling between Queenstown and Milford Sound during the busy summer period.

''You have the potential there for quite a serious crash, and we get a lot of near misses.''

Insp Burns told the Otago Daily Times it was probably good luck there were not more head-on crashes in the Southern district ''because of the actions of drivers like this''.

Police would send the registered owner of each vehicle a letter requesting the driver details and an infringement notice would be sent out to the offending party.

If the driver was in a rental car, police would contact them via information supplied from the rental car company.

He said it would be an assumption that all the rental cars caught crossing the double yellow lines were driven by overseas drivers, but being on the wrong side of the road was the worst place to be for any driver.

And his message to drivers?''Utilise your side of the road, don't go across the other side and cross the centre line. If you see that kind of behaviour, please let us know so we can stop those people from driving.''

The police's ''good-quality cameras and lenses'' enabled officers to spot driving infringements such as people talking on cellphones or not wearing seat belts.

Asked if the campaign was revenue gathering, Insp Burns was unequivocal: ''Have a look at those photos: is that a road safety issue or is this about collecting money?

''There are vehicles on the wrong side of the road ... it's 150 bucks out of someone's pocket or saving me a life; it is a no-brainer.''

He said when police stopped a driver for driving on the wrong side of the road, they inevitably gave one of three responses: They were dodging something on the road; they were ''straightening the bends''; or they were passing another vehicle.

If an officer recorded an animal in front of the offending vehicle, they might accept a person's reason, but ''straightening the bends'' and passing a vehicle on double yellow lines were no excuses.

''For me, it is lazy driving, it is poor driving. People have driven into the bend too fast, or deliberately cut the corner.''


Failing to keep left

Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004
2.1 (1) Keeping left - A driver, when driving, must at all times drive as near as practicable to the left side of the roadway unless this rule otherwise provides.

Breaching of this rule incurs a $150 fine and 20 demerit points

You can of course debate the merits of this, but the rule is pretty unambiguous. If they really wanted to get in to revenue gathering, I'd imagine relatively few people using the right hand lane on the one way system or the motorway fit the exceptions during quieter parts of the day and night.


Our lawful ways

Absolutely. May I add that criminal law is a way of organising Society to protect the rights of citizens? To that end such law may be immutable. Anarchism is a way of operating without government, but we may never be evolved enough to manage it. Civil law must always be open to challenge, but the individual needs to be sure his protest will enhance the greater good, by asking around, basically. Ever thought of facilitating the Harvard debate, Hype.O.Thermia?

More information?

Old Git:

Go back and re-read my post, the answers are there.

The argument I presented, based on the legislation - i.e., the Law - is straightforward and independent of the markings on the road.

You are required, by the law, to drive as far to the left as is practicable, independent of the road markings, including on multi-lane highways, unless certain criteria are met.

Passing is one of those criteria, avoiding obstructions is another. The legality of executing a passing manoeuvre on a double yellow line is, as you say, a side issue.

More information needed

I'm thinking the mention of yellow lines here is a red herring. Yellow lines are to prevent overtaking. Not one of the cars shown is passing anything.

From NZTA website:

"On some sections of road there will be a solid yellow line painted on your side of the centre line. This line is called a no-passing line.

No-passing lines are usually there because it's unsafe to cross the centre line to pass, because features like hills and curves make it impossible to see if there is oncoming traffic."

There is an enormous difference in passing or not. When you are passing you cannot move left at any time as another vehicle will be in the way. Unlike the cars 'ticketed'; they all had the ability to move left at will should the situation require.

What were the actual charges the Police lay? An important part of the story is missing and it's allowing people to be distracted with irrelevant (to this story) painted lines.

Quick history

A little bit of research reveals that the police in the Queenstown-Lakes district have undertaken this kind of operation at least once a year during a public holiday since at least April 2009, so this shouldn't really come as a surprise.

Called [traffic] laws

GW_Scam writes, "According to you centre lines are just guidelines and are not to be taken seriously in their role of keeping opposing traffic on their respective side of the road, instead we should just drive in a way that we believe is safe."

Without getting into the details of this particular breach of law, I believe we should all put acting safely ahead of law. Mostly, one hopes, they are the same thing. Where I take issue is the attitude that the law is automatically right. Laws are [hu]man-made and as such can be wise, or sensible for the times, or bad from the get-go. What happened to the the law that said motorcyclists need not wear a crash helmet in areas where the speed limit was under 30 miles per hour? (Not a misprint, it was in the "miles per hour" days.) What about picture theatres, boarding houses and employers advertising "No Maoris" which according to the law was perfectly OK, and any Maori who made a fuss about it would have been a trouble-maker, if the police had been called he's the one who would have been in court for causing a disturbance! Animal welfare laws have changed from the days when the word "welfare" would hardly have been thought about in connection with laws about animals.

Laws should be obeyed if sometimes only for the pragmatic reason that otherwise one will suffer a penalty if caught, but this does not make them automatically right. Most societies have, or had, laws allowing or enforcing discrimination. Imagining yourself back in time, would you be prouder of yourself for obeying bad laws or for doing what was right? This is straying from the road safety aspect. I have introduced this aspect because I am always skeptical of the viewpoint that "the law is the law, end of story" as if it is beyond the need for constant scrutiny to make sure it is still relevant, and is not against either sense or decent humanity.

Déjà vu

I seem to recall having the same conversation about the same thing in the same place at the same time last year. I don't often agree with GW_Scam, but in this instance I do.

The law really is quite clear - keep in the left hand lane except when: It is obstructed; You are passing; You are turning right; You have been directed to do so.

The law is also equally clear that there are no exceptions other than these. The law is also just as clear that any 'defence' along the lines of 'cui malo' is entirely at the discretion of the officer observing the offence. An offence is still an offence if an officer decides to use their discretion and not issue an infringement.

I don't have the same driving experience as GW_Scam, or rational response, however I have had an experience that neither of them have - I have, as a driver, been injured in a car accident caused by the driver of another failing to properly observe the traffic laws.

I predict that next year the police will carry out the same operation along the same stretch of road, for at least the third consecutive year. I also predict that in spite of this, and in spite of the publicity it has received, they will catch drivers, and there will be people here complaining about the police executing a revenue gathering exercise. [abridged]

Look again

You can't tell me that the two southbound vehicles were doing anything dangerous. Against the law obviously due to the yellow line, but dangerous? Look at how much clear road they have. I wonder why they painted the yellow line just here?

They are called traffic laws

Rational: According to you centre lines are just guidelines and are not to be taken seriously in their role of keeping opposing traffic on their respective side of the road, instead we should just drive in a way that we believe is safe.

In that case, I am guessing you also believe stop signs, red lights, give way rules, etc are also just guidelines and we shouldn't take much notice of those either. Ridiculous to the extreme.

I can finally prove to my colleagues and family who live elsewhere in NZ the exceptionally dangerous driving culture that exists in Otago, which explains why it has the highest rate of accidents. You and 'Old Git' have provided more than enough evidence.

I too have driven for 30 years since I was 15, in Auckland mainly, where you have to have your wits about you to go unscathed. Here the bad drivers, like yourself, get away with their terrible driving because there is little other traffic to hit you - it's called luck.

Though my driving is extensive and covered much of NZ, I have never had an accident, created one, or had an infringement notice of any kind. I also obtained an advanced driving certificate while working many years in the emergency services (ambulance). Many of the accidents I attended were by drivers who also thought they knew better than the traffic laws - to their demise, or someone else's.

How long will your luck 'Rational' and 'Old Git' hold out? [abridged]


Don't throw stones

GW_Scam is the perfect example of somebody who does not understand simple logic.

If you follow the road around a bend and do not cross the centre line you will not be able to see oncoming traffic in the distance, therefore if there are any concerns ahead you will not be able to anticpate them. Imagine, if you can, an accident immediately around a bend. Do you really think you could stop if you're coming around the corner?

If you drive in a straight line, occasionally crossing the centre line (provided there is no oncoming traffic) with clear visibility you are far safer from having an accident as you are far more likely to lose control of your vehicle navigating around corners than you are driving in a straight line (if sleep deprivation is removed from this scenario).

Nowhere in my previous post did I say it is safer to drive around corners on the wrong side of the road!

Scam, "our roads" are my roads too. You have little or no say as to whether I drive or not. As a New Zealand drivers licence holder for over 25 years without an accident (and without creating an accident) I think my record speaks for itself. [abridged]


Common sense is not allowed

Rational response, you're the voice of a lot of competent drivers' feelings, I'd imagine. The police are quite happy to show selective photos without allowing the context of the 'bad driving' to be seen.

Knowing this stretch of the road intimately it is important to note that the drivers 'snapped' have over 100m of clear visibility throughout their move. And the cars that will be coming into sight are coming around slow 25, 45 or 65kmh curves and will be unlikely to require any sudden lane correction to prevent even a near miss.

I, too, say straighten a road if the curves are likely to cause unnecessary sideways forces on a vehicle, with the eternal proviso that at no time is there a risk to anyone else on the road.

I should also add that on numerous occasions I have followed marked police vehicles stepping their right tyres over the very same lines they are snapping others for. And I too have witnessed a fire engine with siren blazing in exactly the same position as cars displayed, fully over the centre line.

If the local Police feel it's safe to do so in this location, they probably need to be careful in grizzling in the media about others. Dash cams are common in most commercial / fleet vehicles now and it would prove embarrasing to see the foot on the other hand some day. [abridged]

Shouldn't have a licence

Rational Response, as below, is the perfect example of someone who should never have had nor probably ever should have a Drivers Licence.

How on earth could anyone be allowed to drive with his way of thinking, that it is "safer" to drive around corners on the wrong side of the road.

If you honestly think like that, 'Rational', seriously - do not drive on our roads, ever again. [abridged]


Revenue gathering once again

What you are seeing in the photos is not lazy driving, many experts would consider this smart, if not safer driving. When there is clear traffic ahead, driving in a straight line, which means crossing the centre line, is indeed safer than navigating myriad slight bends. The double yellow lines are for not passing vehicles from either direction, not for not crossing the centre line.

You are far more likely to lose control of your vehicle going around a bend or coming out of a bend than you are driving in a straight line and you have a far greater view of any oncoming traffic by staying on this straight line as everytime you go around a bend you are blind to oncoming traffic.

When there is oncoming traffic, crossing the centreline is obviously extremely dangerous. When, as in the photos in this article, there is no oncoming traffic then this is definitely not an infringement-worthy incident.

The Police stance on this seems to be; if the driver goes over the centre line we have a camera to issue infringments, If the driver gets in an accident and dies we can say "we told you so".

How about letting the public know about the concerns and being proactive, prevention first. Having an checkpoint before problem areas and randomly stopping and informing drivers would be far more helpful.

Dunedin drivers just as bad

As I have commented many times on here, on an average day I would see at least six drivers a day cross the centre line in Dunedin city itself!

Yet, despite this happening almost common place, the Police seem oblivious to it and it just continues day after day.

I fail to understand how any driver can even have, let alone keep, a drivers licence when they can't follow the one most basic traffic law of all, keep to the left.

I challenge the ODT to get out in the city one day with their cameras and snap people continually crossing the centre line - it is nothing short of frightening. Start with Marne St, between Somerville and Larnach - then most of Larnach, then even streets in the city centre itself with corners.