Let's all start being a little bit honest about how badly we drive
OPINION: Idiots. Our roads are full of them. I know this because I am one of them and this is one game where it really helps to be one to know one.
I know I'm an idiot driver because it wasn't so very long ago I firmly believed I was in the top tier of New Zealand's driving elite.
My accolades to prove this included a whole lot of nothings. No crashing my car into inanimate objects, no speeding tickets, no minor fender benders and certainly no major collision in more than 20 years of driving all around the country. I was an example of automobile handing excellence.
The problem was when I scrolled through my memory banks to remember all the nothings that hadn't happened to me I had to admit some of them had.
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Like, I hadn't crashed into any inanimate objects but only because you can't really count that bloody lamp post at the back of my local Four Square. Everyone crashes into that. So that's a free pass.
And yes, I have never had any speeding tickets. But by that I mean the ones issued by a police officer. I've had plenty of that other kind that comes via a speed camera.
Fender benders, sure, I haven't had one of those yet, but I did nearly run down an entire family using a pedestrian crossing at Mission Bay because I was looking at a group of girls play volleyball and that's kinda in the same realm of cause and effect.
And yes, I definitely have not had any major collisions because if I had this is a story I wouldn't be writing. So I guess I have to thank a friend of mine for violently pulling my steering wheel to the left to avoid a truck thundering down on us during an apocalyptically stormy night on the Foxton straights for that.
These memories have always been with me. I can recall each incident with an uncomfortable clarity. But for some reason I did not call on those incidents when determining just how good I was at manoeuvring a one tonne box of metal and plastic at speeds of up to 100 kmh, or so.
I have been helped to arrive at my new self-assessment by the observations of a person who regularly drives with me. Apparently I am ridiculously easy to distract and will let my head swivel up to 90 degrees to the left or right at the slightest provocation, such as a seagull, a cow or an unusual piece of fence post moss.
It is, I have been told, not unusual for me to slowly remove my left hand and then all the fingers of my right hand from the steering wheel so that my thumb is the only point of contact between me and the instrument preventing my family's fiery death underneath an oncoming truck or down the bank of a seemingly ever present gorge.
And as hard as it is for me to admit, I have to agree that my blaming the people mover car I now drive for not being able to take corners like my 1997 Subaru Legacy does not reduce the danger of these frequent near death cornering experiences
Perhaps what is most frightening about this realisation is that a staggering number of drivers could also come to the same conclusion about their skills if only they were honest with themselves.
That is not as easy as it sounds. I had all the evidence long before now to tell me I was a bad driver. I just chose not to process it in such a way that it gave me an answer matched with reality. This is a thing. This is called illusory superiority, which is just a way of saying you think you are way better than you really are.
Illusory superiority can be an extremely good thing in many cases. Reading, for example, or knitting, gardening and guinea pig raising. There is nothing wrong with thinking you are better than you are in these pursuits.
Driving is different. Because when you drive you are in charge of a missile and if you're not great at handling a missile you can do a lot of damage. If you're lucky you will only hurt yourself and maybe hurt others. If you're not lucky, and the odds are against you being lucky, you will kill yourself or someone you love or someone you don't even know.
I don't even want to imagine life after that. This is why I am relieved I have realised I'm not so great at this missile driving business.
It means I'm likely to take it a bit more seriously, to never leave my thumb alone at the wheel and to know that if I do see a particularly interesting piece of fence moss, well, for the greater good of my world and yours, I'm just going to have to let it pass me by.