Greetings from the South,
Daylight saving finished here last weekend which is a clear message that summer has finished. The way the weather has been this year many locals are wondering whether summer ever started. The temperatures are still quite mild – low 20s (that’s Celsius for the North American) but it hasn’t been consistently settled or sunny all summer – just like the world economy.
A major event that we have had here recently is that on March 25th at 5am the give way rules changed. Interestingly for us older people they have changed back to being substantially the same as what they were before the previous change to the rules which occurred in 1977. The rules that have just been superseded were based on a philosophy that the vehicle with the most difficult turn (most potential conflicts) should have the right of way. Although this sounds good in theory it did not work that well in practice. The information sheet for the current changes notes that when the previous changes were introduced the casualty crash rate at intersections increased by 2.5% in the next three years. Nevertheless these rules have remained in place for over 34 years. I remember many years ago at a conference having a discussion about the rules with a very senior Ministry of Transport official. I told him the rules were stupid and he tried to convince me they were logical and rational. I subsequently found out that he was the author of the rules.
One of the interesting things about the new rules is how the transport agency responsible for them handled the advertising and information programme. Although the changes were signalled quite some time ago, the agency did not commence its advertising campaign to inform motorists of the pending changes until 10 days before the change. They then undertook an intensive media information campaign which lasted until a week after the change. This approach was criticised by a number of self-proclaimed “road safety experts” who predicted chaos. One of the newspapers quoted a panelbeater as saying he expected a lot of extra work. I am not sure how fixing crashed vehicles makes you an expert on road safety. Since the change it has all gone quiet. It is too soon for any data analysis but it does not appear that there been any dramatic increase in intersection crashes. From my own driving experience people appear to have adapted very well. The transport agency’s media strategy of going for a short but intensive programme of advertising rather than a longer less intensive approach seems to me to have been effective although as yet I have no hard evidence.
John de Pont
IFRTT vice President Asia-Pacific