Intense traffic on SH16. Photo / Dean Purcell

This is a problem that sharply divides Kiwi motorists into competing bands of thought – and apparently the authorities as well.

Is it reasonable for drivers to drive at a speed of 100 km / h on the right lane of the highway, when behind the car driving, wanting to pass?

Should you go into the left lane despite driving with the full speed limit allowed to allow motorists who want to exceed the speed limit to do so?

Confusion with traffic laws is made on the air and on the Internet as a lawsuit against the driver’s guilt. fatal incident in the Upper House continues.

On the morning of November 14, 2020, the two cars met in the same lane on the famous section of Highway № 2 just behind the Gibbons St. Both cars were traveling at a speed of approximately 103 km / h side by side before colliding when the connecting lane ended. The judge in this case is expected to make his ordered decision at the end of the month.

Three-minute time lapse on SH1.  Photo / Michael Craig
Three-minute time lapse on SH1. Photo / Michael Craig

Signs 100km / h, State Highway 1. Photo / Tanya White
Signs 100km / h, State Highway 1. Photo / Tanya White

Not wanting to comment on the Upper House case while the investigation is underway, New Zealand police insist it is necessary to comply with speed limits – whatever the circumstances.

“Police understand the frustration caused by slow drivers speeding when entering the lane, but this does not create an excuse or an obligation to exceed the speed limit,” the New Zealand police website said.

“While the police are taking a more pragmatic approach to speeding in the lanes, the few seconds saved when driving an annoying vehicle are simply not worth the risk.”

A police spokesman backed the official Herald statement this week when asked about speed limits in the right lane of the highway.

“Speed ​​limits are speed limits. Any speeding driver can expect to be stopped,” a police spokesman said.

However, according to Roger Vienna, director general of the Automobile Association driving school, the road code is “crystal clear” that speed limits are not a determining factor in who is eligible when driving in the right lane.

“Speed ​​limits don’t matter in this context – the driver is not a law enforcement officer,” Wen said.

“When you’re done driving around slower vehicles on the left, you just return to the left or near lane, lane 1 as soon as it’s safe to do so – leaving the outer lanes lane 2 or 3, if possible, free for other traffic to bypass you.

Traffic on the wet highway of 16 Auckland.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Traffic on the wet highway of 16 Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell

While a fatal accident in the Upper House should distinguish between a three-lane metropolitan highway and a temporary overtaking lane on a single-lane rural highway, the Road Code applies equally in both circumstances.

Wen said driving in the left lane is “inherently more dangerous” because it provides a much larger blind spot for the vehicle you’re driving – which should also theoretically move left straight to where you are at some point.

“Staying in the outer lane or lanes, if you can return to nearby lanes, also means you are closer to oncoming traffic and the risk (even if there are barriers) – the risk increases again,” – said Wen.

“Just” sitting “on the outer lane at 100 km / h, or whatever the stated restriction, is unacceptable – provided that the inner lanes are free. This can be incredibly unpleasant for other vehicles and shows a lack of etiquette and awareness – the key attributes of all safe and competent drivers must be adhered to ”.

Wen said the question of whether it is reasonable to sit in the right lane, drive at a limited speed, is common among AA members and in his network of driving instructors.

There is a lot of traffic on the Southern Highway.  Photo / Jason Oxenham
There is a lot of traffic on the Southern Highway. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The relative confusion of Kiwi motorists and their haphazard driving on New Zealand highways contribute to much worse road tolls than in equivalent countries.

“Some of the safest roads in the world per kilometer are European motorways and motorways – some of them have no speed limits. And guess what – keep left or just “go back to lane 1 if it’s safe” (the rule) is followed almost unquestionably – the attitude is much more mature – faster driving is just allowed to pass safety on the outer lanes, ”Wen said.

“The UK also has a very safe network of motorways with higher speed limits than New Zealand, and also adheres to the mantra to keep left – a simple flash of lights from a future faster car behind is usually seen as a polite message to the left so they can pass – in the New Zealand, in my experience, this course of action is always either ignored or considered an act of aggression. “

The Auckland Road Safety Business Survey 2021 found that if New Zealand’s road safety conditions were in line with the state of Victoria in Australia, which has a population of around six million, about 124 New Zealanders would die less on our roads in each. the last three years.

The report of the International Transport Forum on road safety for 2020 the number of fatalities on the roads in New Zealand per billion kilometers of car travel was also estimated incredibly poorly.

New Zealand averaged just under eight road deaths per billion km – worse than more than 15 European countries and the United States.

Steve Butler-Jones of the Auckland Highway Police Department is checking the speed level with a Stalker laser gun.  Photo / Bulletin of the National Assembly
Steve Butler-Jones of the Auckland Highway Police Department is checking the speed level with a Stalker laser gun. Photo / Bulletin of the National Assembly

By comparison, Australia averages just over four road deaths per billion kilometers. Denmark, a country of similar size to New Zealand, has recorded about three road deaths per billion kilometers.

Accident researcher Hamish Pierce said stubborn motorists who stay in the right lane of the highway when there are drivers willing to drive are endemic to the lack of manners on Kiwi roads.

Pierce said authorities such as Waka Kotahi NZ (NZTA) and Auckland Transport are overly concerned with advertising and speeding reports, but do not reinforce the courtesy, manners and common sense of the driver on our roads.

“We could also have better advertising. I mean, we see a lot of ads from the NZTA Waka Kotahi media that talk about speed. Honestly, speed is not a problem that we’ve had for years. Speed ​​- a factor in every accident but when we look at it, it’s the driver’s behavior, ”Pierce said.

“When was the last time we saw an ad that instructed people on how to drive safely and how to drive properly?

“So, for example, use lanes on the highway. How often do we see slow drivers in the right lane? They may think they are complying with the speed limit, and even if they are complying with the speed limit, if they are not overtaking, use the left lane.”

Pierce also stressed that speedometers are “not necessarily accurate” and you can drive a few miles at speeds below 100km / h, even though you seem to be on the dashboard.

The problem has also caused a storm of reactions online from random Kiwi motorists.

Aucklander Jeff Upson has created a Facebook page that calls itself a “road safety campaign” with more than 4,000 subscribers, with which he publishes numerous videos of motorists mistakenly staying in the right lane.

One video released by Opsan this week is titled: “Very unpleasant! Why can’t the New Zealand police keep the left until the law is passed?”

In it you can see Upsan approaching a red hatchback driving slowly relative to another vehicle on the right lane of the three-lane highway.

Approaching it, Upson closes the hatchback, while other cars pass a couple of vehicles that are driving slowly in the right lane.

160 comments to the video demonstrate the division that exists among Kiwi motorists on etiquette and traffic rules on the right lane of the highway.

One commenter in support of Apsan’s messages: “Watch it every day on the roads … so frustrating. The road code says always keep to the left if not overtaking.”

However, many others are in favor of overtaking in the left lane, including the following: ride them. “

Opsan is also behind a parallel online campaign called “The Best Roads in New Zealand,” which advocates returning highways to 100 km / h instead of a wide speed reduction to 80 km / h on many New Zealand highways.

“Reducing speed limits is an absolute joke and does not teach incompetent drivers the basics,” says the BRINZ website.

The debate about the highway in the right lane has also caused a flurry of hot reviews on Newstalk ZB after presenter Andrew Dickens expressed his annoyance at the fact that people are trying to bypass him when he is driving at a limited speed of 100 km / h in the right lane.

“If I’m driving 100 km / year in the right lane, I’m not breaking the law. I’m driving at the maximum speed allowed by law. It’s recommended to drive left. If you’re driving at 110 km / h, you’re breaking the law. Got it? Lord!” Said Dickens on the air.

Dickens responded to messages from listeners to the station, challenging his point of view.

“Not using the left lane, it seems you have a problem, Andrew,” said one listener.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you drive, Andrew, if you’re in the right lane, you’re moving for faster traffic,” wrote another.

Intense traffic on SH16.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Intense traffic on SH16. Photo / Dean Purcell

The NZTA is the official body for the Road Code and has allocated the same section of the Code as Roger Wen of AA:

The lane closest to the center line can only be used if:
• You want to bypass another vehicle
• you want to turn right
• The left lane is filled with another movement or overlapped.

The NZTA spokesman added: “If traffic on the multi-lane motorway is free, no one should simply drive in the lane closest to the center line. The right-hand lane should only be used in specific circumstances defined in accordance with the New Zealand Road Code.”

However, despite seemingly convergent New Zealand police reports on the issue, emphasizing maintaining speed above all other considerations, a police spokesman stressed the ability of traffic law enforcement officers to use their judgment when fining motorists.

“Our front-line officers have always had the opportunity to act on their own, which means our staff will talk to the driver and decide what action to take. It can be training, compliance or enforcement, depending on the circumstances presented, ”a police spokesman said. .

But police were ultimately uncompromising, making the reduction in speed a major focus in road safety reports. Road etiquette and rules of the road code were not mentioned.

“For every reduction in the average speed of 1 km / h on the road network, the risk of fatal accidents is reduced by 6 percent. At the current death rate on our roads, this can be equated to 18 lives saved per year, ”the police said. said a spokesman.

“We know that speed has the biggest impact on the outcome of an accident – whether you leave or drive in. That’s why we continue to focus on speed without apology.”

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