Pointing the right direction

The vexed question of overseas drivers, and what can or should be done to (a) improve their safety record and (b) keep other motorists safer on our highways, has become a major issue.

Just this week, in the Queenstown District Court, an Indian tourist admitted dangerous driving, after his erratic performance in Otago caused numerous complaints to police.

As Judge Michael Turner observed, the situation the tourist found himself in was becoming ''all too common'', particularly in courts in the lower South Island.

Last week the ODT reported how a governance group is likely to be formed to tackle the issue, the first step in a ''three to five-year project to lower the number of tourists involved in serious or fatal crashes on New Zealand roads''.

That story caught the eye of a Wash reader, who preferred not to be named. She rang with one idea she thought might make a difference - the greater use of ''direction arrows'' on our roads.

My caller said she did a lot of travelling in New Zealand and could not believe how few of these ''arrows'' she finds - ''How far do you travel before you come across an arrow these days?''Surely if more arrows were used, they would prove ''helpful reminders'' to overseas drivers about which side of the road they should be travelling on.

Well, it sounded like a good idea to me - practical and relatively simple - so I put this to the New Zealand Transport Agency to find out what its policy was on the use of arrows.

Jim Harland, the NZTA's southern regional director and the man leading the governance group, provided this response:''These arrows are used on low-volume tourist routes carrying less than 5000 vehicles a day. We do not use them on higher-volume roads as there is normally enough traffic visible to people entering the road way to remind them to keep left. The arrows can be a hazard to motorcyclists if placed in the wrong location, so they only tend to be used on straight sections of road where approaching motorcyclists can see them.

''The layout used has an arrow marked in the traffic lane immediately downstream of a rest area exit (or side road) so that a driver exiting out of a rest area (or side road) can identify which lane they must be in. A set of arrows are painted a further 200m down the road or before a hazard such as a curve to remind the driver to keep left.

''Their use will be looked at by the governance group.''

I'm told some examples of routes carrying fewer than 5000 vehicles a day include many of the main roads in Otago, other than State Highway 1.

That topic leads nicely into a follow-up to our story earlier this week about how motorists deal with finding their way blocked by farmers droving stock on the road.

Neville Harris, of Wanaka, who describes himself as a ''retired farmer'', recalled spending many hours on the road driving large mobs of sheep between his two properties in the Upper Clutha area.

One time two of his musterers were driving a large mob of freshly weaned merino lambs from Luggate to Mt Barker when a speeding car failed to stop and ploughed into the mob, killing several lambs.

The musterers told the driver that unless he paid for the loss, they would call the police.

''So, out comes this guy's cheque book and he writes out a cheque to cover the cost,'' he said.

''When the boys arrived back at the yards all smiles at what had happened, the cheque firmly at hand, I was not so pleased, but no good crying over spilt milk.

''I told them we may as well have a few jugs at the Luggate pub on the way home to drown our sorrows, which we duly had, and all was forgotten, or so I thought until I visited the hotel some time later and found the cheque pinned on the wall - which is where all bounced cheques finish up!''

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