Who is to blame for the road toll?

credit: Stuff

I recently had the misfortune of driving from Auckland to Wellington during holiday traffic.  It was a reminder of why I mostly chose to fly and not drive.  What should have taken just over 8 hours took 9½.  Yes it was busy, and yes the weather was awful for some of the trip, but still, it felt like an unnecessarily long time to be sitting in a car.

I shouldn’t complain, at least I arrived safely.  Many don’t.  The road toll for 2017 was 380, 53 more than the previous year.  Why has it increased?

Cars have better safety records than ever before.  Many of our roads have had vast amounts of money spent on improving them and making them safer.  Widening, straightening, adding extra lanes, median barriers, lighting.  The speed limits are more strictly enforced and so are the drink driving limits.  Who or what do we blame?  My money is on the who – inconsiderate drivers, and the what – bad road design.

Inconsiderate drivers:

Cars overloaded.  Multiple bikes on the back, kayaks strapped on the roof and loaded to the hilt inside, obscuring any visibility through the rear windows of the car.

Speeding up in a passing lane.  You can pretty much guarantee that any slow coach you want to pass on the windy bits will be flat to the floor on the gas as soon as there is a passing lane in sight.

Pulling into traffic and not getting up to speed.  The fact you’ve cut in front of me is annoying enough, don’t force me to brake while you take your own sweet time to get up to speed.

Dawdling along like it’s a local road and not State Highway 1.  Particularly bad on the outskirts of small towns.

Taking eons to overtake.  Get out, pass, and get back in, quick as you can.  Yes yes, I know there is only a 4k tolerance during the holiday period, but it really makes no sense to dawdle past another vehicle just on the off-chance that there is a cop coming the other way who will ping you for being over the speed limit.

Driving too slowly.  I am convinced that this causes more frustration and leads to more bad decisions than someone who occasionally travels over the speed limit.  We were caught behind two drivers on two separate occasions who were travelling at 50 – yes – 50kph in a 100kph zone.  The road was dry and visibility good, absolutely no reason for travelling less than 100kph.  I flashed my lights, tooted the horn to attract the driver’s attention, but there was no notice taken.  When I finally managed to overtake him, I sat on the horn to express my displeasure.  Did he give me a friendly wave of apology?  Nope.  He blasted his horn right back at me.  I guess because I was “impatient” and “reckless”.

These are just a few of my pet peeves, and mostly these bad habits boil down to a lack of courtesy for other drivers, the assumption that a driver only has to think about his/her vehicle and not give a toss for anyone else on the road.  Find a way to make drivers courteous and considerate of others, and the road toll will reduce significantly.

On that 650k journey, during the busy holiday period, how many Police did we see patrolling the road?  None.  I saw two Police cars with lights and siren heading to a crash I passed on the Desert Road.  I saw about 3 speed camera vans parked up on the side of the road.  But not one Police car on the side of the road observing or driving amongst the traffic to keep drivers honest.

Road design

State Highway 1, our “main” road, wanders its way through entire towns, at 50kph.  Foxton, Levin and Otaki are prime examples, but there are plenty of others.  This adds time, fatigue and frustration to an already long trip.  We need to bypass these places.  Ignore the locals who will inevitably complain about loss of business, and blast right on past them without a second thought.

Of course, this costs money, a lot of it.

And no matter what we do, there will always be road deaths.  It’s a sad unavoidable fact of life.

But there is no cost at all, to anyone, for being a considerate driver.  Give it a try.  You might even enjoy it!

 


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