Swap sides now, urges government task force

Australian drivers are so in tune with left-hand drive road rules that making the swap would be easy, a report into driver habits says


AUSTRALIAN drivers are already so in tune with driving on the wrong side of the road that the government could save billions by making the jump to a left-hand-drive market, a report has recommended.

The Department of Transport’s Safer Highways Initiatives Taskforce has told the government that Australian drivers already mimicked so many of the left-hand-drive road rules that applied to US and European drivers that making the swap to left-hand-drive roads would be “a low-cost, high benefit solution to congestion”, the report said.

The report’s recommendations are based on a two-year-long study of on-road behaviour, involving twice-daily observations of motorists in major metropolitan and regional centres that were then collated to paint a picture of the average Australian driver.

The taskforce said the study revealed that the average Australian motorist was already so in sync with US and European road rules that swapping the steering wheel over to the other side of the vehicle would be “unexpectedly easy”.

“It was surprising to see the extent to which Australian drivers have already adapted to driving on the opposite side of the road, despite Australia being a nation of right-hand-drive vehicles,” the report said.

“Predominantly heavy commercial vehicles, SUVs, taxis, light commercial vehicles and Toyota Avalons all show a preference for using the right-hand lane of multi-lane highways,” it said.

“The result is a considerable slowdown in the median traffic flow of the ‘fast’ right-hand lane compared with the ‘slow’ left-hand lane – exactly the same we would expect if those vehicles were picked up and relocated on a European autostrada or autobahn.

“The obvious benefit to this is that, just by forcing Australians to swap sides, traffic flow can improve instantly as the fast lane becomes just that, a lane for fast-flowing traffic, and slower traffic is confined to the traditionally slower lane.”

The cost of congestion in Australia is expected to double from $10 billion in 2007 to more than $20 billion by 2020, the Department of Transport has estimated.

“With the demise of local manufacturing just around the corner, Australia no longer has a need to stick to right-hand-drive vehicles,” the taskforce said. “Once Ford, Holden and Toyota switch off local manufacturing, it will act as a natural laxative for the transition to a US or European-style system.”

The federal government said it would sift through the SHIT report before deciding to pick up any of its recommendations.

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