Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The right way to go Samoa?

from w
Samoans are surely disturbed by the new road law that starts next Monday. Used to driving on the right, they now will have to drive on the left. Perhaps this is because of rellies overseas sending them cars from Oz or New Zealand. But imagine a bus (with a right-hand exit) stopping in the middle of the road for passengers to disembark!
Jump in my car, I wanna ta-ake you home
Mmm, jump in my car, it's too far to walk on your ow-own
No thank you sir-ir
Ah, c'mon, I'm a trustworthy guy
No thank you sir-ir
Oh little girl I wouldn't tell you no lie
I know your ga-ame
How can you say that, we only just met
You're all the sa-ame
Ooh, she's got me there, but I'll get her yet
I got you there-ere
No you didn't, I was catchin' my breath
And look it's startin' to rain and baby you'll catch your death
Well, I don't know-ow
Ah, come on it costs nothin' to try
And you'll arrive ho-ome nice

Samoa prepares to drive on the left.
Samoa has vowed to go ahead with an unpopular plan to make drivers switch to the left hand side of the road in a week's time despite mounting public anger.
By Paul Chapman in Wellington
Published: 3:00AM BST 02 Sep 2009

Demonstrations, a petition signed by one-fifth of the population, and a campaign of civil disobedience have all failed to dissuade the government of the normally laid-back Pacific island nation from making the change. Thousands of protesters attended a rally in Apia, the capital, on Monday after a last-ditch plea to the Samoa Supreme Court failed when a judge ruled that the government was acting within the constitution.

In an unrelenting tide of opposition, new "keep left" road signs have been taken down by activists and arrows newly painted on roads have been vandalised so they point the wrong way.

At least two villages have pledged to make drivers switch back to the right hand side when they pass through, and a bus owner has threatened to set his vehicles alight in protest.

A track specially set aside in the capital for people to practise driving on the left remains unused.

Samoa, population 189,000, has driven on the right since it became a German colony in the early 20th century, although it was administered by New Zealand after the First World War and gained independence in 1962. The switch, due to take place on September 7, will make Samoa the first country to swap sides since Ghana in 1974, and the first within living memory to change from right to left.

Only one-third of the world's 6.7 billion people live in countries that keep left.

The idea is the brainchild of Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Prime Minister, who has angered opponents by claiming that it takes only three minutes to learn to drive on the left. He argues that the change will mean the 170,000 expatriate Samoans who live in Australia and New Zealand, which both drive on the left, will be able to send home cheap right-hand drive vehicles. It will also mean that inexpensive used cars can be imported from Japan, which drives on the left.

Most vehicles currently in Samoa are gas-guzzling left-hand drive models imported from the United States and nearby American Samoa. Opponents have warned that switching sides will cause accident rates to soar among the many left-hand drive vehicles.

Bus owners, faced with changing over the doors on all their vehicles so that passengers do not step out into the middle of the road, say they will be forced out of business. Nanai Tawan, owner of Mapuitiga Transport, said: "I would rather bring my buses to parliament and burn them there for parliament to see what they are doing to us." Among others particularly hard hit are car dealers.

Last week's abortive court action was brought by a group called PASS (People Against Switching Sides), which has led the chorus of protest.

Veo Papa, a leading member of the group, said she hoped "that the frustration and anger as we approach the day is not going to spark violence". The government has declared September 7 and 8 public holidays to give people time to get used to the change. Graham Williams, a New Zealand crash investigator, predicted a "dramatic increase" in the number of crashes, especially in rural areas.


TommyQ said...

It is the first time after 40 years that a country switches driving sides

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