Holiday driving - less idiocy for once?

22:37, Jan 16 2014

I don't know about you but I think I saw fewer cases of maniacal or high-speed driving during the official summer holiday season, and perhaps the lowest road toll for decades reflects that.

On the other hand, I experienced more slow driving than ever. People moan and whinge about slow driving but the upside is that it results in fewer road deaths and less carnage.

Still, there's slow driving and then there's criminally slow driving. Like most of you, I don't mind being part of a line-up ambling along at 80kmh during the summer season. You're on holiday; you're meant to be in a relaxed frame of mind. With loads of vehicles on the road, and occasional nose-to-tail traffic out of town, 80kmh seems rather sensible, no? There's no point getting impatient; overtake one vehicle and you're immediately on the tail of another, and for what gain? If you don't want to be part of the 80-kay set, pull over, keep a weather eye on your rear view mirror and create your own "breathing space", to coin a phrase used by the authorities. If you've waited for a minute or two and had a stretch, you can then resume but at a better pace, cracking along at 100kmh for a bit. It takes a surprising amount of time before you've caught up with the pack again.

I rose early on New Year's Day, and headed off to golf at 6am. The roads were utterly deserted. So was the golf course; I was through nine holes before any others had even teed off. Not that the golf was any better; worse really with all the dew on the greens, but you sure can motor around 18 holes when no-one's ahead of you. Like on the road, it's a case of you setting the pace, and taking control, if that's what you want to do.

Criminally slow driving, where to begin? With the road code which states that if you are travelling slower than the speed limit and there are vehicles following, you must keep as close to the left side of the road as possible, and pull over when it's safe to do so, letting others pass. Moreover, you mustn't speed up on straight stretches of road because it prevents following vehicles from passing easily.

All of which presupposes said slow drivers are actually looking behind them. My experience is they often don't appear to because they seldom respond to visual cues (turning on of headlights, indicators, hazard warning lamps or all three; hello, anyone home?). And this is the crux of the matter; much bad driving is the result of selfishness, indifference towards others. Another example is those who simply can't be bothered using their indicators, leading to frustration for those following. Or the drivers who reverse out of a driveway in front of others where there's not really a gap. Or those who change lanes into a gap they created themselves, often without indicating. You also see such churlish behaviour at uncontrolled intersections, impatient drivers edging forwards and virtually blocking one lane because they are incensed at waiting a second longer.


Again, this sort of boorish behaviour at the wheel simply shows a disregard for others, and self-obsession. Whatever happened to common courtesy?

Perhaps we're seeing more of this bad behaviour on our roads simply because of increasing traffic volumes.

Maybe there are more unthinking, selfish, couldn't-care-less types out there driving and perhaps that reflects subtly changing mores in our society.

It surprises me how often arrogant, self-confident egotistical pains are promoted to positions beyond their level of competence. Are these the same people who display impatience and rudeness at the wheel?

Every time the topic of slow driving arises, traffic officers are quick to reassure us they do stop and ticket slow drivers, but it's so much easier for them to ping those who are a few kays over the speed limit. There is no actual number they can use to characterise slow driving; it depends entirely on the traffic circumstances and therefore requires a qualitative assessment, ie, one not requiring a speed gun.

So why not start pinging slow drivers, as they do overseas, when they are holding up, say, five or more vehicles? Put a number on it unrelated to speed. That way these selfish, indifferent, sod-you-all drivers might actually once in a while bother to use those pieces of reflective glass attached to the outside of their vehicles, and PULL THE %*&^# OVER. It's not just the campervans either, though they'd be the worst offenders, if we're generalising.

Criminally slow driving continues to be a blight on our roads, and it causes people following to get impatient, angry and do stupid things, like trying their luck on blind corners.

So how was the rest of the holiday? Perfect thanks, since you're asking. Great reads included The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simpsion (from Melbourne) and a new Jeeves and Wooster tale (Jeeves and the Wedding Bells) by Sebastian Faulks. Among more physical highlights was a run up the beautiful Waitawheta track, just out of Waihi. This old milling trail necessitated multiple river crossings in the past, but DOC has now bridged all of the major wet obstacles, the final ford easily negotiated by boulder hopping. Well, recommended, or you could always walk it and stay overnight in the hut.

And that was my holiday.