The Rena disaster, the fact that we still don't really know why our road toll is well on the way down and that we're the only country in the world favouring trucks over some of the least pollutive small cars in terms of diesel taxation tells me one thing.
It tells me that we have a transport minister who has too many things to do. In other countries, the portfolio of transport minister is second to the PM in that government pecking order, because the duties are deemed so important. Thus the transport minister has that portfolio alone, instead of balancing it, like that bloke at the circus with plates on sticks, with several other portfolios and associate portfolios.
Currently, Steven Joyce, a good communicator and possessed of a mind like a steel trap, is: Transport Minister; Tertiary Education Minister, Communications and Information Technology Minister, Associate Finance Minister and Associate Infrastructure Minister.
Should the Government retain its right to govern, I'd like to see the good Mr Joyce stay with the transport portfolio, but I believe the duties involved mean that he should have no other work to do. On the contrary, I'd like to see Joyce overseeing additional associate ministers with separate road, maritime, air and rail transport duties.
William Paul was killed when his car went out of control into the path of an oncoming van north of Taumarunui in August last year, and Coroner Tim Scott says the car was fitted with snow tyres, or winter tyres, which are not as effective as normal tyres in warm conditions, and probably caused the accident.
I think the Coroner's call to ban winter tyres on the strength of this case is more than a little simplistic not to mention short-sighted. I'd have been more concerned that the seller of the car to this owner - probably a dealer - didn't make the car's new owner aware of the presence of winter tyres.
There's no doubt that winter tyres are best used in temperatures below 7 degrees celcius - according to most tyre-makers - and while I agree with the Coroner in this case that many members of the public wouldn't know they were unsuitable out of season and may not even recognise them as cold weather tyres, no car dealer worth his salt would be so naiive.
The only rules we have here about snow tyres came into effect in April 2010 prohibiting combination winter and ordinary tyres on the same vehicle while requiring a minimum tread depth of 4mm for winter tyres.
The Coroner wants to go further and recommends making it an offence to sell snow tyres and drive a vehicle with snow tyres fitted in New Zealand.
The announcement that the UK Government is considering raising that country's motorway and dual carriageway speed limits to 80mph (about 130kmh) has caused an amazing number of commenters to suggest "why not here?"
Well I'll tell them why not...
* IT'S NOT THAT MUCH QUICKER IN THE UK - Having lived with a 70mph (113kmh) limit since the early 60s on dual carriageways and motorways, to the UK driver, the 80mph limit is only an increase of about 14 per cent. In New Zealand such a limit would be an increase of almost 30 per cent.
* THE UK ROAD FLEET IS MUCH YOUNGER - You don't see many old cars in Britain anymore and over the last few years I'm amazed how young that country's fleet looks. A strong MOT testing regime (that's Britain's WOF) has meant that, just as it is in Japan, once a car reaches "a certain age" it becomes prohibitive cost-wise to keep it on the road. In fact the UK average car age is around the seven-year mark, while ours has just gone beyond 13. Thus it can be seen that the UK's fleet is more suited than our own to safe high-speed cruising.
* WE JUST DON'T DRIVE WELL ENOUGH - We're running a year-on-year road toll of around 305 souls a year at the moment, which is a vast improvement on recent years, but still something like a half of Britain's per capita total. At 80mph - or even 70mph - we'd be even more lethal than we already are.
You may have already seen Toyota New Zealand's new ad for the Hilux, its thirty-years-at-the-top light commercial that recieved a facelift last week.
If you haven't, then click on this link and see how a crazed body-armoured warthog, of all things, teams up with a chimpanzee to promote New Zealand's favourite truck.
The revamped new Toyota is being celebrated in South Africa and Australia too, and their ads are almost as original.
The South African production depicts how a woman takes her partner's keys by mistake, but sticks to his new Hilux rather than her own Toyota and almost becomes a bloke as a result.
The Ocker ad is made with much the same production values as the New Zealand and South African ads, and borrows some of Top Gear's Hilux hyperbole for its depiction of the Toyota's toughness.
The decision not to pre-warn motorists of speed cameras is shortsighted. Road painting, pre-warning motorists with visible signage, fluorescent yellow-painted cameras and penalty points for driver's licences are the main elements that make cameras work at slowing people down in the UK.
I amassed quite a few kilometres in Britain recently and my simple motorist's view from that experience is that not only are most speed cameras there visible enough to be seen well before you reach them, they also appear to represent entirely reasonable speed limits.
I'd go further than that and say that the legally allowed speeds in some narrow, doors-on-the-pavement villages are rather in excess of the velocity I'm personally comfortable with.
We could learn a lot from the Brits. You don't get a death-per-capita rating of less than half our own on faster, tighter, less well-finished roads than ours without knowing what you're doing.
The difference between our speed camera culture and Britain's is that in New Zealand, if a camera makes no money then it's moved somewhere where it will. In Britain a successful speed camera deployment is one that is visible enough to slow people down so that it takes no revenue at all.
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