OPINION: We've all done it, we mature adults driving along in our own smug little world knowing, just knowing, that the young hoons in the car in front with the throbbing exhaust pipe will be a magnet for the next police car to come along. And the sooner the better, before they kill someone.
However, it's a stereotype that needs a serious rethink after two days of police speed-camera work on a couple of roads leading into Invercargill city last week. The problem is that when it comes to leaden right feet the supposedly responsible drivers among us have as little respect for speed restrictions as those we have been so ready to point the finger at.
Two days, 118 speeding tickets, on roads where speed restrictions cut in to slow drivers down as they move into the suburbs, is a strong indicator that many of us are just not showing enough care on the roads.
The roads targeted have been problem areas for some time - residents have complained of traffic travelling too fast and the Invercargill City Council has even increased the size of the speed limit signs, but nothing has worked. So out came the speed cameras, followed immediately by the tickets.
And no, those of you who were caught, you weren't unlucky. Many of us still seem to have the mind-set about travelling a few kmh above the speed limit that was prevalent about drink driving decades ago - that we all did it occasionally and so we had some sympathy for anyone unlucky enough to get picked up.
We've grown up as a community since then and we need to grow up, quickly, about speeding. Even at The Southland Times, where in a Facebook post alerting on-line Times fans to the story in today's newspaper we asked those "unlucky" enough to have been caught to let us know. As some Facebook fans quickly let us know, the only luck involved was in catching the speedsters before anything more serious occurred and we immediately changed the comment.
We are not safe drivers, no matter how good we think we are behind the wheel. Those involved in the three-vehicle pile up at Makarewa on Friday night can attest to that. When a vehicle stopped on the open highway, waiting to turn right into a sideroad, is hit by not one but two following vehicles police reporting the incident to The Southland Times appear to be showing considerable restraint in suggesting that motorists be more cautious in their following distances. Especially since this was the second nose-to-tail smash in the same area in the last fortnight.
Added to that is the appalling record Invercargill drivers have for intersection crashes - the highest per capita in the country for the past four years, according to the NZ Transport Agency's risk register.
The police message is a simple one: just slow down. Adhere to the speed limits, and if the conditions are bad, adhere to the conditions. It is good advice, particularly at this time of year when heavy frosts can lead to black ice that can turn a normally clear stretch of road into a skating rink.
Earlier this year southern police conducted an intensive "take no prisoners" campaign enforcing speed limits near schools and took to rigidly enforcing the 20kmh speed restriction when passing stationary school buses.
Thousands of schoolkids are back on the streets this week as the new term begins and they will have a lot more on their minds than watching out for speeding motorists.
- The Southland Times
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