Slow down and wind down

Roger Rabbits
with Jim Bunny

You feel like a gut-shot razorback…as they say.

That ghastly empty, vulnerable and very angry feeling when you have just dodged a serious car accident, dodged being the main player in a ‘one person dies in car wreck’ story in the local newspaper.

Your stomach heaves, you sweat, you swear and you say a small prayer. Someone’s just driven through an orange light right across your bow. And you know you’ve just been spared by the Grim Reaper. “Not this time...” he tells you.

We join this conversation because recently the loudest voice in the room declared ‘Tauranga was a city of crap drivers’. And there was an outcry of agreement. Fast, aggressive and no courtesy was the consensus.

Pet hates (sidehead)

Our backseat critics came up with these pet hates – the most dangerous and annoying driving behaviours experienced every day in our great city.

  • Tail gating – especially by black baseball cap and aviator-wearing ute drivers.
  • Drivers who reckon merging like a zip is a sign of weakness, or a competition.
  • Drivers who indicate after nearly completing a lane change. Or don’t indicate at all.  
  • Running stop signs and orange lights. 
  • Hoons doing hoon-ish things.
  • Speeding up in passing lanes.
  • Doing 110km/hr-plus on Takitimu Drive.  
  • On the mobile while driving.
  • Road rage – don’t get drawn in, breath deep, avoid eye contact, stay off the horn, lock the doors, call the cops, wish you were someplace else. In NZ we may cock a middle finger during road rage – in the United states they cock a SIG Sauer 9mm semi-automatic and shoot. On average 44 people per month are shot and killed in road rage incidents. They play for keeps.

Driving ‘geriatric’

The kids accuse me of “driving geriatric”. Probably because I am one. ‘Driving geriatric’ involves driving to the speed limit, a bit over, a bit under.

I calculate one car length for each 10km/hr I am travelling at. Mainly because I get pissed by people driving up my jacksy. So I don’t drive up theirs. I am mostly courteous to other drivers. But seldom do I get it back.

Like the other day when I pulled up a couple of metres short of a downtown intersection to allow pedestrian Asian tourists to cross in front of me. They were chuffed – smiled and waved their appreciation. And I gestured back. A moment of global harmony.

Until….UNTIL …. Missy Cranky Pants behind me had a hissy, climbed on her horn and waved her hands in frustration because the United Nations had set her day back a whole 20 seconds. A real Miranda – all temperamental and impatient. Sorry Miranda…I forgot all the roads belong to you. Forgive me.  

But why all the aggression and intolerance? It’s man-eat-man. One old head sighed and said: “We all just need to slow down and wind down”. Yep wind down and slow down.

Another wise head, a former traffic cop, reckons to be a safe and responsible drivers, each of us must adopt a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ towards our own dumb and dangerous driving practices.

Bonehead crazy

Then as I was trying to “merge like a zip” from a feeder lane on Chapel St, a Mazda turned it into a competition and undercut me at 85km/hr. A bonehead crazy, accident-promoting manoeuvre that counted for nothing when 100 metres up the road, we were both pulled up at a red light. He eyed me, sneered and gave me a middle finger. Lovely!

Next day I pull up behind a Toyota Hilux under the bridges headed into town also on Chapel St. After being held up a few seconds at a red light he decides he can’t, or won’t wait, drives straight across the raised traffic island in front of the oncoming traffic and into a petrol station. If I drive ‘geriatric’ then he drives ‘dickhead’.  

The Americans fiddled with the data and somehow concluded the average driver saves just 26 seconds of their time on this planet by speeding. And just two minutes across a week. But that all depends on surviving the trip because the risk of being involved in a fatal crash doubles with every 5km/hr increase in speed over the limit in a 50km/hr zone.

Be a shame to save all that time only for your car to end up in a scrapyard, your no-claims bonus in the shredder, and you dismembered on a pathologist’s slab.

I asked my tame Pom about New Zealand drivers. “Bloody terrible!” Just an observation, because she doesn’t drive. “But only because there are too many crazy Kiwis on the road.” Another lovely Pom tells of being stuck behind a lorry on the inside lane on the M4. He noticed a car zoom up in the middle lane and then hold back. “They sensed I would probably want to pass the lorry so he slowed up to give me space to overtake.” That’s courtesy, that’s nice.



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