Cyclists today expressed outrage about a Land Transport Safety Authority rule change that allows visibility from car side windows to be reduced by half. �This rule change will lead to increased injury and death among cyclists because car drivers will be less able to see them�, said Dave Kelly, spokesperson for national cycling group the Cycling Advocates Network (CAN).
Cyclists believe the rule change has serious implications for their safety. CAN�s concerns were raised in its submission on the rule, but these appear to have been ignored by the LTSA. The rule change lowers the required visible light transmittance (VLT) for front side vehicle windows from 70% to 35%.
�When checking for cross-traffic, motorists sometimes fail to see cyclists before pulling out, turning, or opening their car doors� Dr Kelly said. �This is a common cause of crashes between motorists and cyclists. Anything that increases the chance of motorists failing to see a cyclist, like tinting the side window, should be avoided. Cyclists are smaller and less conspicuous than motor vehicles, and so the driver must have the best possible chance of seeing them.�
CAN says that detecting cycles is more difficult in poor light, such as at dusk or in rain. The crashes caused by cars failing to give way to cycles which they did not see are almost impossible for the cyclist to avoid and are therefore of great concern. CAN believes that allowing tinted front side windows will increase the likelihood of these crashes.
Dr Kelly also noted that reducing visibility through the front side windows will also make it harder for drivers to notice cyclists in their door mirrors. �For a cyclist, being caught by a carelessly opened car door is one of their greatest fears� said Dr Kelly. �Such incidents happen suddenly and if the cyclist is then run over by a following vehicle it can be fatal�. A recent court case in Christchurch highlighted these dangers, after a cyclist was caught by a car door outside the City Council offices and seriously injured.
CAN is also worried that tinting side windows makes it harder for cyclists and motorists to establish eye contact. �At an intersection, if the car windows are tinted, it�s impossible to tell whether the driver is looking at you or not. A careful cyclist watches other drivers to be sure they are going to give way. This rule change will therefore make cyclists much more nervous� said Dr Kelly.
�What�s worse is there seems to be no argument in favour of the change: what are the benefits?� Dr Kelly asked. CAN noted that the new LTSA rule also puts NZ out of step with overseas practice. Most of the world has stuck with 70% VLT. Only in Australia is 35% widely allowed. CAN is calling for the rule change to be reversed immediately.
For further information, contact:
Dave Kelly, CAN, 03-364 2782 (work) or 03-365 6276 (home), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org