I am driving to work and I see a car at the side of the road with it its indicator flashing. The car is approximately 50 metres from a mini roundabout, facing the roundabout.
- Is the car indicating that it wants to pull out into traffic?
- Is the car about to perform a U-turn?
There are two answers:
Answer 1 (applicable to UK):
In the UK, the behaviour would be obvious. The car is clearly indicating that it wants to join the traffic stream and since you should never pass a signalling vehicle unless it is safe to do so; you always slow down until the other car pulls out and joins the traffic.
If the driver wants to do a U-turn he will take the lowest risk approach to doing so; drive the 50m to the roundabout and turn around the roundabout so he is now heading in his preferred direction.
Answer 2 (applicable to NZ):
In NZ, the behaviour is considerably less obvious. The purpose of the car’s signalling is not clear. Let’s remember that we have a mini roundabout close by so it would seem unlikely that the car wants to do a U-turn.
You might think that but you would be wrong!
In over 80% of the cases that I observe whilst I drive about Christchurch — a city with very wide roads — a signalling car at the side of the road wants to execute a U-turn. Never mind how close it may be to a roundabout. Instead of joining the traffic, driving to the roundabout and doing a U-turn about the roundabout, most NZ car drivers will swing out and execute a U-turn right in front of you.
Most NZ drivers that want to pull away from the side of the road and join the traffic stream just do it. They do not signal. In their minds, a signal is only necessary for BIG manoeuvres.
I attribute the other 20% of cases where the signalling car join the traffic stream as being cars driven by non-Kiwi drivers.
I made the mistake of flashing the driver to come out and he executed a U-turn in front of me. I should know better by now. I have been driving in NZ since 2000 but I still seem to keep a residual hope alive in my heart that one day, maybe soon, Kiwis will learn to signal their driving intentions to others and may one day opt for the safest manoeuvre instead of the most dangerous one.