Samoa set to switch road lanes

Critics warn of traffic chaos as residents ready to drive on left-hand side.

    Drivers fear traffic chaos in Samoa as they prepare to switch from driving on the right-hand side of the road to the left.

    The small South Pacific nation of 180,000 people is set to change lanes on Monday, the first country to do so in nearly 40 years.

    The government has banned the sale of alcohol for three days and declared a two-day public holiday as a precaution, until people get used to the changes.

    The government wants to bring Samoa in line with Australia and New Zealand and to encourage some of the 170,000 expatriate Samoans there to ship used cars - with right-side steering wheels - home to relatives.

    Move criticised

    Opponents of the switch to drive on the left, including the People Against Switching Sides (Pass) movement, argue Samoans were inadequately prepared for the change and necessary road improvements had not been carried out.

    Lefau Waikaimoana So'onalolole, the president of Pass, said that, while the group accepted the inevitability of the changeover, it wanted a postponement.

    "The efforts to prepare for the road switch are nowhere near completed," he said, saying necessary roadworks had not been finished.

    "Not only that, but I believe there is much work to be done in educating everybody about the switch."

    Accidents expected

    Experts predict the changeover will lead to more accidents on roughly surfaced roads, which are often fringed by high vegetation.

    Thousands in Samoa, a largely devout Christian nation, have left it to fate, praying for a changeover "free of injury and, heaven forbid, death", an editorial in the Samoa Observer newspaper said.

    Bus companies have threatened to go on strike because the government refused to pay the cost of changing the exit doors to the opposite side of their vehicles.

    However, most resistance has reduced since a court late last month overthrew a legal challenge to the switch and the country has largely supported the bid to ensure a smooth changeover.

    The speed limit was reduced from 56 kilometres an hour to 40, while speed bumps were installed in many busy areas.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.