One of the most traumatic aspects of driving in Norway is the “right hand rule”. This archaic rule dates back to when cars had a maximum speed of 10 km/h and there were lots and lots of junctions with no defined right of way. In essence the rules says that on main roads out in the countryside and larger roads in town the person travelling on the road has right of way while on smaller roads especially in suburban areas the person joining from the right at a junction has the right of way. The theory sounds simply but the reality… The reality is a total fuckin nightmare!
It is pretty easy to know as you plod along the E18 from Oslo to Bergen that, on the main road you have right of way and only an idiot would pull out in front of you. Likewise on the little backstreets in the middle of town you know that at any moment somebody is highly likely to come in from the right and so you drive accordingly. So far so good.
The problem is that there is a huge grey area between the big open roads and the suburban back streets. Roads were you have right of way are marked by a yellow diamond, but these signs are infrequent and it is not uncommon for a road to change status along its length. So as you happily drive along with the right of way suddenly an idiot in a taxi (they are all idiots) will suddenly pull right across your path and it will be your fault! Yep its that logical!
It gets worse. Even in built up areas where people to the right have access its unclear as to what constitutes a road. A driveway to a house is not a road, so you can’t pull-out from your drive – fair enough. Even pulling out from a driveway that connects two or three houses is not allowed. So what is a road? Apparently the magic number is six! If a track serves six or more houses then you can launch yourself into the path of oncoming traffic safe in the knowledge that when some poor sod t-bones you, its their fault. The result of this is that you drive through built up areas staring at the signs that show the house numbers trying to count and calculate if the person heading in from your right is likely to stop and hoping that they know how many neighbours they have.
Furthermore, no-one is really sure what constitutes a road. The strip of tarmac that heads from the main road through Sandsli into Statoilhydros office complex. It looks like a road but its private property. Everyday around 3pm its carnage as either both cars stop or both try to proceed believing they have right of way. Nobody I have asked actually seems to know what the legal position is and everyone is scared and confused.
Some argue that it would cost too much to have a sign at every road junction – bollox! This is the second richest country in the World. In fact they are currently changing all the signs for the zebra crossings because the figure, who looks rather daper in his hat, is too masculine! Apparently some poor women are not sure if they are allowed to use these crossings, and there are even people without hats who are uncertain if they can cross. Others claim that the scaletrix dads who run the country keep it like this to slow the traffic down – yes for real, I have heard that argument on more than one occasion. If promoting anarchy makes the roads safer then lets follow it to its logical conclusion and abolish all the traffic rules. Make it like Asda on a saturday afternoon, totally chaotic but at least nobody ever gets killed because everything is grid locked and nobody is going anywhere.
Me – my next car will be a tank with extra armour on the right hand side. Then I am not stopping for anyone unless there is a whiteline and a give-way sign. Just like the rest of the civilised world*
And yes I know the French have a similar version of this rule but, A) theirs is much more toned down and; B) I don't count that as part of the civilised world.