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An unpleasant surprise - 26 February 2019


Graham Wallace gave us his 'Viewpoint' on driver safety. A salutary tale.

'On Wednesday 19 December 2018, I’d been at work for most of the day and I caught the train to Mana where I picked up my car and headed for home. It was 4:45 and traffic was very heavy in both directions on Mana Esplanade. I was first in the queue waiting in Pascoe Ave to turn right into Mana Esplanade. When the lights eventually turned green I had to wait a few seconds for a couple of northbound cars that sneaked through late but I then proceeded across the intersection to join the southbound queue.

'Only I didn’t make it.

'A car came barrelling down the outside northbound lane, passing a line of stationary vehicles, straight through the red light and slammed into me. My car was a write-off but luckily I wasn’t – just a bump on the head as my car was shunted sideways. It would have been a very different story if I had been just 1m further ahead - I would have been seriously injured or worse. (I got the impression that the young uninsured woman driving the other car cared less about that but she apparently was issued infringement notices for failing to stop at a red light and “other matters which the police didn’t elaborate on”).

'Mana Esplanade presents a showcase of all that’s bad about NZ motorist behaviour, admittedly exacerbated to some degree by the multitude of traffic lights, complicated lane closure restrictions and frequent congestion. We often witness speeding, inconsiderate or aggressive lane changing, tailgating, red light running (particularly by large trucks), using a cell phone while driving, failing to give way when entering roundabouts and we shake our heads at the antics of those temporary New Zealanders on motorcycles who have a completely different set of rules from the rest of us.

'Nothing like being involved in a collision to polarise your views. Disrespect for fellow road users and a disregard of the road rules is widespread. There is a general attitude that speed limits can largely be ignored because nine times out of ten one can get away with exceeding them – it’s just bad luck if you get caught doing 65 kph in a 50 kph zone. There seems to be an ingrained desire to get wherever we’re going faster than anybody else, a need to burn others off when the lights change, a compulsion to pass the car or cars in front even if they are travelling at the legal speed limit, especially where there are passing lanes, and it’s definitely not cool to let other vehicles change into your lane in front of you. We are never going to get our road fatality toll down with attitudes like that, no matter how much the Government spends on making roads safer. We need to toughen up on (not) breaking road rules. What’s the use of telling everybody what the tolerance is on exceeding the speed limit? That effectively increases the speed limit when what they are trying to do is keep speeds down. We don’t need tolerances – the speed limit is the speed limit – exceed it and you run the risk of being fined.

'Yes I know we’ve heard all this before and I can see a few eyes glazing over out there. But it’s only going to get worse as the population expands and more and more people try to get on the same roading network.

'Let’s be honest – the last time you drove into Wellington did you exceed the speed limit at any stage – through the road works at the Transmission Gully Kenepuru interchange for example? Well, maybe you didn’t, but everybody else did!!!

'OK here’s a challenge for you. Set an example – to our families, to our friends and anyone else who travels with us in our cars.

'Put an honesty box in your car. Every time the driver exceeds a speed limit or breaks any other rule he or she has to put a dollar in the box. Of course, it would be an honesty box but I know that you are all fine upstanding Rotarians and would not try to kid yourselves.

'Give the money to charity. The Club's trust account is waiting.

'Good luck, be careful and drive safely. It’s the least you can do.'

An unpleasant surprise - 26 February 2019

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