Page last updated at 02:27 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 03:27 UK

Samoa road change plea rejected

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

File image of a bus outside a hotel in Samoa
Samoan motorists have been driving on the right for years

Protesters in the South Pacific nation of Samoa have lost a legal bid to stop a change in road rules that will force motorists to drive on the left.

The switch has led to demonstrations and sparked fears of chaos when the changes happen in a week's time.

Safety experts warn that the new measures will put lives at risk.

The new rules have survived legal challenges in the Supreme Court, while large protests have failed to convince the government to back down.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele says that church bells will help to usher in the changes in the early morning in his quiet corner of the South Pacific.

"We don't have that many cars in Samoa and we do not have that many people in Samoa too," he said.

"I would envisage at 0550 we will have a kind of speech through the television and then exactly at six the call will go out, sirens and church bells will ring."

Economic aims

The government has said there are sound economic reasons for the changes.

It wants to end the importation of expensive left-hand-drive cars, particularly big, thirsty American models.


Instead it is hoped that expatriate Samoans living in Australia and New Zealand will increasingly send used right-hand-drive vehicles home to their relatives.

It has been argued that smaller cars that are cheaper to run would boost the development of poorer parts of the country, which has a population of about 180,000 people.

Critics, though, are furious at such upheaval.

They have insisted the new road rules will cause mayhem and could trigger a rash of accidents. The changes will coincide with a special two-day public holiday designed to keep the confusion to a minimum.

Print Sponsor

Country profile: Samoa
19 Oct 11 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Samoa
17 Oct 11 |  Country profiles

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific