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Fleet Drivers Angry over Driving Switch

August 27, 2009

Bus drivers in Samoa, a Pacific island country, say they would rather set fire to their fleet than switch to driving on the left side of the road, reports the Brisbane Times of Australia.

The historic but controversial road rule change, scheduled for Sept. 7, will align the country with Australia and New Zealand in a move designed to encourage relatives living abroad to export vehicles home.

A group of 24 bus operators are refusing to pay the $50,000 tala per bus charge to swap passenger doors to the other side of the vehicle, stating the cost would put them out of business. The government has offered compensation of license fees for six months, worth only $1,180.

Driver Nanai Tawan from Mapuitiga Transport, said the cost was so extreme he would set fire to his buses before driving on the left. "In protest I would rather bring my buses to parliament and burn them there for parliament to see what they are doing to us."

In addition, angry villagers have pulled up the new "keep left" signage, repainted the directional arrows on the road and pledged to refuse cars to drive through their towns on the left. The action group People Against Switching Sides (PASS) has launched a law suit against the government.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is behind the switch and is widely criticized for failing to consult the community or order a study to evaluate feasibility. This month he further angered those who oppose it by saying it took only three minutes to learn how to drive on the left side of the road, according to the Brisbane Times.

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