Caution, not chaos, expected over rule changes

Giveway rules explained. ODT graphic.
Giveway rules explained. ODT graphic.

Police and roading authorities are not expecting chaos on the roads on Sunday when two new give-way rules are introduced. In fact, they are expecting the opposite - extra-cautious driving.

However, an increase in collisions is expected several weeks later as education messages wear off and people become complacent. Once drivers settle into the new rules, the number of intersection crashes is expected to be fewer than under present rules.

Everyone, from drivers to pedestrians to visitors to New Zealand, has been reminded to take extra care on the roads ahead of the changes, and a mass education programme has been running for the past week.

Emergency services, buses, taxis and local authorities are bracing for the give-way rule change with extra instruction for staff.

In Dunedin, the city council has been using computer modelling and site visits by staff to investigate how 176 intersections around the city will cope with the rule change.

That had resulted in three intersections being upgraded, at a cost of about $40,000, council transportation operations senior traffic engineer Ron Minnema said.

Give-way signs had been changed at the Main South Rd-Brighton Rd and Main South Rd-Kaikorai Valley Rd intersections, and a new right-turn arrow was being added at the upper Stuart St-Moray Pl intersection, he said.

The changes were aimed at preventing large queues of vehicles during peak traffic periods, which could congest the three intersections and raise safety concerns with cars lined up around blind corners.

Another 14 intersections around the city were a "50-50 call", with staff unsure if problems would arise, he said. Those intersections, including the busy George St-Frederick St-London St intersection, had been placed on a watchlist to see how they performed, with minor changes possible after a settling-in period of four to six weeks, he said. 

"We don't want to pre-empt the behaviour because we might solve one problem and create another problem that's worse."

Residential intersections had not been inspected, as they were considered "low volume, low speed, low risk", he said.

However, anyone with concerns about an intersection could contact the council's customer services agency to report problems.

Mr Minnema said it was expected drivers would be "really careful" initially, but an increase in crashes could follow after a few weeks, as motorists began to relax. The benefits of an overall reduction in crashes would become obvious in the longer term.

He urged motorists to "be patient and be courteous", adding the new rules applied equally to all road users, including cyclists.

"Take your time, don't rush and if someone does go ahead of you ... just let them go."

Dunedin-Clutha area road policing manager Senior Sergeant Phil McDouall said police were not expecting any major problems initially.

No extra staff would be working on Sunday, or even in the first few weeks, to police the introduction of the rules, although those on duty would keep an eye on intersections.

With the amount of education over the past week, people would be well aware of the change and were expected to be extra cautious on the day, he said.

The experience in New South Wales, where the rules were changed several years ago, was few crashes in the first few weeks of the new rules, but a rising number a few months later, when people became more complacent and the education message started wearing off.

Tourism New Zealand has asked the industry to remind tourists of the change, which will align New Zealand's give-way rule with that of most other countries, and pedestrians are being urged to be extra vigilant, as cars will move differently and signals will change.

"It's important to remember that these rule changes are not just about changing habits for drivers - it's all road users, including pedestrians, who must adjust," NZ Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield said.

"Pedestrians should never pre-empt crossing signals. They should always wait for the green man, and now is more reason than ever to [do so]."

Mr Dangerfield also asked parents to talk to their children about being a safe pedestrian and remind them that it was extra important to be careful when crossing the road.


Lights are being changed at   the upper Stuart St-Moray Pl intersection. Photo by Craig Baxter
Lights are being changed at the upper Stuart St-Moray Pl intersection. Photo by Craig Baxter
Give Way


• Main South Rd-Brighton Rd: Removing give-way sign from southern approach; anyone turning right from Green Island on to Southern Motorway will now have to give way to all other road users.

Main South Rd-Kaikorai Valley Rd: Motorists approaching Southern Motorway on-ramp from Stevensons Rd now have give-way sign for both straight ahead and left-turning traffic. Anyone coming from Kaikorai Valley turning on to motorway on-ramp will have right of way.

Upper Stuart St-Moray Pl: New arrow phase for right-turning traffic from Moray Pl to head up Stuart St.


With traffic lights: Princes St-Rattray St; Princes St-Moray Pl; George St-Frederick St-London St; Filleul St-York Pl-St Andrew St; Great King St-St Andrew St; North Rd-Bank St-Opoho Rd; King Edward St-Hillside Rd.

Without traffic lights: Forbury Rd-Easther Cres; David St-Thorn St; Playfair St-Thorn St; Portobello Rd-Shore St; Portobello Rd-Marne St; Musselburgh Rise-Shore St; Wharf St-Fryatt St.

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