Wednesday, July 1

RD: HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THE ROAD CODE?

Here’s a topic for your workmates to debate over smoko. Ask them to describe a “No U-Turn” sign and to define its meaning.

The sign’s relatively easy - circular, with a red border and diagonal stripe, and a black arrowed ‘n’ on a white background. The irony is, of course, that the symbol isn’t a U but a lower case n.

You’d think the meaning would be easy, too – don’t do a U-turn - but it’s not that simple. Don’t do a U-turn where? Frequently, the sign will be on the end of a traffic island, so you might think you mustn’t turn at the end. Seems logical. Ha! This is the law, not logic!

Pin your mates down to an answer. Can you do a U-turn a kilometer past the sign? Obviously. Well then, what about 100 metres past? Probably. What about 10 metres past? You should get a squirming answer of “maybe, it depends”. Right then – what about one metre past? Most will answer no. What about one millimeter?

The truth is, there is no distance associated with the No U-Turn sign, and thus, providing you don’t brush against the sign itself as you chuck your U-ee, you are probably not breaking the No U-Turn law. Note the emphasis on probably.

I’ve had a long discussion with a quite high-up cop on this topic, and after some research, he agreed that where the law is unclear, then case law (i.e. from a court case) would define the meaning. His research showed that there is not any on this matter in New Zealand. That is, no one has defended a prosecution on the grounds that the sign has no distance associated with it, and is thus meaningless.

However, and I must emphasise this, that does not give you carte blanche to perform a U-turn with impunity, as there are other laws that a clued-up cop might invoke, and if you see any of the words Careless, Dangerous, or Reckless on an Infringement Notice then you might have second thoughts about the merits of your actions.

Safety first.

Racing Dave.