Summer motoring - same old shizzle

Back from a short break early, and it's so pleasant to be motoring around the city with almost no traffic, as if it were 1969. Despite that, I've driven past the outcome of two major prangs so folks must still be on holiday in their heads.

Unsurprisingly, it was busier on the Coromandel roads during the holiday period than back in Auckland. The traffic this summer seemed to be better behaved, at least where I was driving, than last year. I saw no real acts of lunacy, to my amazement. They must be happening, however, as the road toll in 2012 was higher than that in 2011.

From behind the windscreen I see the same driving issues cropping up. My pet hate is folk ambling along at stupidly slow speeds, and failing to realise they are holding up a freight train of vehicles behind them.

This is by far the most common of pet peeves for motorists, almost half in one US survey citing it as the thing they hated most about driving. An accompanying editorial comment suggested "poor situational awareness and a lack of concentration probably cause the majority of road crashes today".

How hard is it to look in the rear view mirrors, especially when all cars have three of them? Perhaps these slowpokes are actually looking and realise there's a stream of cars behind them, but choose to do nothing, for whatever lame reason. Normal considerate folk would pull over at the earliest opportunity and let everyone else go merrily on their way.

The thing that gets me is that often it's not truckies or tow rigs holding up traffic but some fool in a regular car that's oblivious to the mayhem behind. They seem to be cocooned in their own myopic world.

Those in behind are fuming on slow burn, and must wonder what on earth is going on in the mind of the idiot up front. Probably nothing. And that's part of the problem. There simply aren't enough signs around suggesting that pulling over to let others pass is the right thing to do. On the roads I frequently travel there's just a lone sign that suggests to "be mindful of those behind". It doesn't go on to suggest "pull over ASAP and let them pass". Drivers that hold up lines of traffic, for whatever reason, are morons but I bet you anything that over 99 per cent of them can actually read.

So here's an idea. I've noticed that many road signs have instructions on one side but nothing written on the other. Why not, particularly on winding roads where there are frequent signs indicating speed limits for tight corners, write helpful suggestions on the back side of these signs like "pull over if there's traffic behind" or "pull over for tailgaters" or perhaps "pull the *&#@ over".

It's interesting that virtually no one ever uses the slow vehicle lane. And there's probably a good reason for that. First, it's never an actual lane but almost always a 50m pullover area. Why call it a lane if it isn't one? Second, no one in New Zealand wants to identify themselves as "slow" because of all the connotations involved. So how about the authorities rename these slow vehicle lanes for what they truly are - pullover zones for those who are holding up long lines of traffic.

Can anything else be done? It would be helpful if those in behind could politely indicate to those in front that it might be considerate for them to pull over and let everyone else pass. Only I've yet to discover a signal that works. All will surely be interpreted as barefaced aggression. And a road rage incident is the last thing most people want to deal with, especially on holiday when you're trying to get away from all that stress. Flashing lights, horns, tailgating; they don't really go down so well, but how do you get through to people who think it's really genuinely okay to be doing 50kmh-60kmh in a 100kmh zone?

I would love to see drivers being pinged for slow driving. Some reckon it happens but I've never seen it. Driver education is needed on this for it makes even normal people, not just impatient types, do crazy things, endangering themselves and others.

Yes, we've heard all this stuff before, but it keeps on keeping on and the authorities don't seem to give a damn. Meantime the road toll is moving in the wrong direction despite the revenue-driven blitz on speed. Perhaps if the authorities addressed both ends of the speed spectrum the road toll blip of 2012 might be reversed this year. Fat chance.

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