Give-way rules set to change

New Zealand's idiosyncratic give-way road rules are set to change.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has this morning unveiled the Government's Safer Journeys 10-year road safety strategy.

In a speech at parliament, Mr Joyce confirmed a package of measures to tackle teen drivers. The package will go to Cabinet this month. It includes:

* Raising the driving age from 15 to 16;

* Requiring novice drivers to have 120 hours' supervised practice before driving alone;

* Introducing a zero drink-drive limit for drivers under 20;

* Better education;

* An investigation into vehicle power restrictions.

A second package to address alcohol and drug impaired drivers would go to Cabinet next month. It included compulsory alcohol interlock devices and a zero limit for repeat drink driving offenders.

Much of the Safer Journeys strategy has been foreshadowed over a number of months, but Mr Joyce sprung a couple of surprises this morning.

He said Cabinet would consider changes to the give way rule later in the year and public input would be sought.

The proposed changes would reverse the give way rule, allowing left turning traffic right of way.

At T-intersections, where two cars are turning right, the car turning off the main road would have right of way - reversing the status quo.

New Zealand's give way rule was introduced in 1977 and holds that a vehicle turning right takes precedence over a vehicle turning left.

New Zealand is the only country in the world with this priority rule. The Automobile Association says the rules are a factor in 2560 intersection crashes, and one or two deaths, each year. Some 17 percent of crashes are at intersections.

Among the "first actions" for Safer Journeys is a change to the give way rules for turning traffic. Documents say that following Cabinet approval, public consultation on proposed changes will be carried out.

"The New Zealand Transport Agency will develop a mass media campaign and supporting resources to introduce the changes," the Safer Journeys document says.

There were also changes for motorcyclists with Cabinet to consider measures to improve motorcycle rider training and licensing and require licensing of mopeds. The Government also intended to introduce a power-to-weight restriction for novice riders which would be consulted on through the select committee process.

There would be a review of the traffic offences and penalties for causing death and serious injury.

The document has baulked at changes to the blood alcohol limit for adult drivers, however.

It proposes either lowering the drink drive blood-alcohol limit to 0.05 mg or simply investigating the level of risk posed by drivers with a BAC level of between 0.005 and 0.08. This would be decided either way next month.