new zealand’s stupid right-hand-turn rule

Update (Mar 12): Sanity prevails! New Zealand’s right hand turn rule changes to align with the rest of the western world on March 25th at 5am. See here: I leave this post as a testament to how silly this rule was.

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I have a compulsion to describe just how much I hate New Zealand’s stupid right of way road rules. Those of you who’ve driven here possibly understand the rage. For those of you who haven’t, let me try and explain how it works. Keep in mind vehicles drive on the left in NZ.

Here’s the single sentence version: In New Zealand, a vehicle turning left must give way to an oncoming vehicle making a right hand turn into the same road. Or to put it another way, when making a right hand turn across oncoming traffic, you need only give way to cars proceeding straight ahead. Oncoming vehicles turning left must give way to you. Clear? Didn’t think so. Here’s a picture:

Red car gives way to blue car.

In Australia (and pretty much everywhere else) when turning across oncoming traffic, you must give way to all oncoming vehicles. Nice and simple.

I’ve racked my brain trying to understand what benefits are conferred by this hare-brained approach. I’ve certainly encountered a couple of really dangerous situations that are created by the rule. I’ll use some pictures to explain the problems.

Situation one – Vehicle A making a left hand turn at a four way intersection with traffic lights and pedestrians crossing. When a red light changes to green, generally pedestrians crossing in the same direction will get a green signal too. This means when turning left, you must wait until the crossing is clear of pedestrians before turning. No worries. Only problem is, pedestrians will sometimes dart across the crossing when their signal has started flashing red, so the driver of Vehicle A must pay close attention throughout the turn to avoid collecting anyone.

Watching the pedestrian? Mind the car about to crash into your driver's side door!

While busy watching pedestrians and making a left turn, the driver of Vehicle A just might miss an oncoming Vehicle B with right of way turning right on top of them. Dangerous, sure. Not the worst one though.

Situation two – Vehicle A making a right hand turn on a straight but narrow road, while a large left-turning oncoming Vehicle B gives way. What a driver may not be able to see behind the oncoming Vehicle B is another Vehicle C which is not turning. It is legal for this hidden Vehicle C to pass the slowing/stopped Vehicle B. Upon passing, Vehicle C has right of way over Vehicle A which may have already started to turn, possibly resulting in a passenger-side collision. Very not good. This was described here at Fush ‘n’ Chups from where I nicked the diagram (thanks guy!)

It's bad enough as is. Now imagine Red Car can't actually see Yellow Car.

So when is this nutty rule actually meant to help? Can anyone describe some scenarios that are actually made safer by the rule?

Edit: I’ve discovered from a news article from 4 days ago that the NZ government are at last planning on ditching this rule! Hooray!