Carless days introduced

30 July 1979

Nevile Lodge cartoon on carless days (Alexander Turnbull Library, B-135-684)

Carless days for motor vehicles were introduced to combat the second ‘oil shock’ (petrol shortage) of the 1970s. They did little to reduce consumption and were scrapped in May 1980.

Under the legislation, all private owners of petrol-driven motor vehicles were required to select a day of the week on which they would not use their car. A coloured sticker on the windscreen indicated the chosen day. Those caught on the roads on their designated day off could be fined.

Other measures introduced to reduce petrol consumption included cutting the open-road speed limit from 100 km/hr to 80 km/hr and restricting the hours during which service stations could sell petrol.

Several factors contributed to the scheme’s ultimate failure. One centred on the issue of exemption – it was possible to apply for an ‘X sticker’ exemption if the vehicle was needed for urgent business. A black market for exemption stickers emerged, as did forgeries, making enforcement difficult. Households able to run two cars had a distinct advantage over others as they could choose different carless days for each vehicle.

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