Impatient drivers risk everything and everyone
Blind faith in their luck was the only thing that saved several impatient motorists from disaster between Twizel and Timaru at the weekend.
Motorists on the 150-kilometre stretch of State Highway 8 on Saturday were forced to share the road with the region's annual cycling classic, an event with an approved traffic management plan which allowed cyclists to ride in bunches taking up the entire lane rather than the normal two-abreast, but many were prepared to put their own lives and others around them for the sake of a few extra seconds.
Time and again there was ill-conceived overtaking, whether it was on stretches of highway that were not long enough for the manoeuvres or even worse, overtaking on the blind brows of hills – and on one occasion, on no-passing lanes, blatantly into the face of oncoming traffic. Just the blink of an eye seemingly separated safety from head-on disaster.
Vehicles at the centre of the dangerous driving were often those who had been delayed the shortest.
It was heart in the mouth stuff for those with the patience to wait for an appropriate overtaking spot only to see vehicles scorch past from the rear of the lines of vehicles passing around blind bends and over hills. It must have been even worse for the cyclists who faced being cleaned up in any collision.
In the photo gallery at the top of this article a ute is snapped overtaking a bus and a group of cyclists on a stretch of road just past Lake Pukaki as a car appears from the opposite direction. The ute only reached safety after the oncoming car was forced to brake to avoid a collision.
One cyclist surmised why motorists will show regard for animals, stock, horses on or near highways, but when it comes to cyclists and fellow motorists, there appears to be none.
All the worst New Zealand driving traits were on display on Saturday with excessive speed and aggressive behaviour to the fore.
Mid-South Canterbury area police commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said that to his knowledge, there had been no complaints of bad driving behaviour. He did not seem surprised though while again urging drivers to be patient.
"It doesn't matter where you drive, it could be cyclists one day, on other days it could be agricultural vehicles slowing traffic.
"It's going to happen . . . take five minutes longer to do your trip."
Gaskin said lack of patience was a major driving fault and it was almost a case of people wanting to arrive somewhere before they had even left.
"You wish that everyone would simply drive sensibly, but it's just not the case," Gaskin lamented.