by Jim
on Feb 9th, 2006

Road Rules #1

Getting used to driving on the left side of the road does not take long. For the first few days I was on high alert and the most attentive driver on the road. I was worried that I’d be in trouble after getting a little too comfortable, but to my surprise my habits have slowly just shifted over to left side driving.

But one odd rule with NZ driving that is much more difficult to get accustomed to is a backwards give-way rule. Translated into right-side convention, this rule states that when making any right turn, you have to give way to oncoming traffic turning left. At first I had all sort of problems with this and was either cutting people off or waiting unnecessarily. Then for a moment I though maybe there was some sound logic to it all, since it made both left and right turners wait on one stream of traffic. But now I’ve decided what most Kiwis have: this is a bad rule. First of all it is inefficient, and second it forces the one turning right to check their rear mirror to see if they can turn (since through traffic might block the one who’d otherwise have right of way). I’ve heard that NZ is the only country that still has this rule on the books, but there are plans to do away with it. Until then beware… if you visit and drive in NZ this is the one that will get you!

Finally, please forgive yesterday’s excessively whiny post. It was a bad day.

2 Responses to “Road Rules #1”

  1. Jeff the Boldon 21 Mar 2006 at 11:00 am

    There was one scenario that really caught my attention when driving on the left. Once, as I was driving on the left along a rural highway, a car approaching on a side street from the right gave a half-hearted stop, then turned left into the on-coming lane of traffic just as I was approaching the intersection. Here, when somebody approaches from the right and turns left into the oncoming lane, they have to cross my path. Of course, in NZ, that is not the case, but that didn’t stop me from almost flying out of my seat.

    Far more annoying were my efforts to stop confusing the turn signal and the windshield wiper control. Driving a stick shift is interesting too, until you get used to pushing the gear shift lever away from your body to reach 2nd. I was grinding reverse quite a lot.

    It’s the pedestrian travel that I have never been able to get accustomed to. Whenever I’m on foot in a country where they drive on the left, I’m always confused about where the cars will be coming from. Angela is probably totally screwed up by now, growing up in drive-on-the-left Malaysia, living in the drive-on-the-right US for many years, then moving to NZ.

  2. Jimon 26 Mar 2006 at 2:17 pm

    The weird ‘give way to the right’ rule has an even more illogical aspect: at a T intersection, a car turning right onto the top of the T has right of way over cars turning right off of the main road. The problems with this are many, but it seems like most NZ T intersections override this with a yield sign anyway.

    A good example of the bad rule occurred just the other day. I was turning left but gave way to a guy turning right. He waited to give way to oncoming traffic behind me. The guy behind me decided there wasn’t enough room to swerve around and didn’t pass. So there the three of us were gridlocked for a second or two until I just went. Nonsense!

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