Why Kiwis are lousy expressway drivers
Admit it, we're lousy expressway drivers.
Waikato's expressway will be fully functional and completed by early 2020, and if all drivers adhere to just a few rules on how to use it, everyone will benefit.
The problem, experts say, is we all have our own idea of what the rules are.
One of the biggest problems on a two-lane highway is the dawdlers who clog the right-hand lane.
* Work starts on Hamilton section of Waikato Expressway
* Cambridge section of Waikato Expressway ready to open
* Contract awarded for final part of Waikato Expressway
* Rangiriri section of Waikato Expressway set to open
Quite a few drivers regularly rant and rave at such folks.
"Anecdotally, the friendly nature of Kiwis gives way when we get into our metal boxes and we become aggressive," AA Driving School national general manager Roger Venn said.
"We have the mentality that if we are on or near the speed limit that we are okay in the inside lane, as why should we let people break the speed limit?
"But we aren't the traffic police. We should allow traffic past," Venn said.
"We need to be more courteous drivers. It's not a badge of honour to stay in the inside lane.
"We don't need to think that if someone is flashing their lights from behind wanting to pass it's an aggressive gesture. We should be fine to move to the left."
The New Zealand Road Code states that the lane closest to the centre line in a two-lane highway should only be used when: you want to pass another vehicle, you want to turn right, or if the left-hand lane is full with other traffic or is blocked.
So that last bit applies to Auckland pretty much all the time, and to Wellington much of the time. Everyone else needs to listen up.
Many Kiwi motorists have grown up driving solely on one-lane roads, so suddenly having more room and options can be a new notion for some.
"There aren't that many in New Zealand and so we aren't taught to drive on them. Driving tests talk about them, but maybe it's something that could be considered in the future - taking drivers on motorways."
The Road Code also states that when there are passing lanes, you should drive in the left-hand lane unless you are actually, actively passing another vehicle. If you've been driving slower than the speed limit, don't speed up when you reach a passing lane if other vehicles are following – give them the opportunity to pass you safely.
Former Waikato road policing manager and Hamilton City Councillor Leo Tooman also acknowledges that those cruising in the fast lane can cause serious problems.
"There are so many people who get in the right-hand lane and cruise along at 80 or 90 and hold everything up.
"The idea of an expressway is to actually move traffic and allow it to flow nicely, but not if everyone ducks and dives just to get ahead of that one car."
He says ducking and diving with a lack of indicating during a lane switch is also a huge problem.
One of the fundamental road code rules is about when to signal.
The rule is you must signal for at least three seconds before you: turn left or right or move towards the left or right; for example, when you pull back into the left lane after passing another vehicle, you must signal left.
Tooman acknowledges we aren't a nation of drivers good at taking criticism, either.
"We've got to change our mindset when we are driving. I know a lot of drivers annoy each other. I just think we all need to show a little more tolerance towards each other. We would be better off."
The Waikato Expressway is continuing to develop.
New Zealand Transport Agency has confirmed that construction on the last section at Longswamp has begun, Rangiriri is nearing completion and work has started on restoring the historic pa site.
The Huntly section has been disrupted by heavy rain, but construction continues. And work is also ongoing in the Hamilton section, which is the longest part of the expressway at nearly 22km long.
- Waikato Times