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Girl TORQUE: Slow driver aggro


It seems ironic that just when the police are getting stricter on speedsters, I’m grumping about the slow-pokes. But they, too, cause crashes...

Grrrr. I’ve just been held up by a slow driver. Cancel that, by a driver whose progress was so glacial I almost got out to look at the view while waiting for the road to clear.

Overtake? Not possible; for around the first 10km of my commute the road is narrow and bendy. Only a lunatic would try it – though some do. And sometimes I can see why. For despite the arrival of at least two, well signed pull-over bays some drivers don’t seem to realise they’re slow.

And I’m not talking 60 or 70kph here; a driver unfamiliar with this demanding road might not feel safe at faster than that, despite the open-road limit. At 60 or above, I think pure thoughts; plan what’s for dinner; evaluate the ergonomics, materials, and finish of the car I’m driving.

But this last irritant drove past one pull-over bay at, and I kid you not, 25kph and the second at under 40.

I’d thought yesterday’s 40kph dawdler bad enough, particularly given they kept straying over the white line. If you can’t keep left at that speed you shouldn’t be driving; head-ons kill, and on this road so can swerving to avoid the idiot coming straight at you, for there is no run-off. You hit the bank, you hit a tree, you plummet seawards – or you hit the driver coming towards you.

Even if you’re both doing 40, the impact can kill.

It seems ironic that just when the police are getting stricter on speedsters, I’m grumping about the slow-pokes. But they, too, cause crashes. You can’t condone impatient drivers passing; you can understand why they’re tempted, particularly after 10km has just taken 20 minutes, instead of less than half that.

A quick chat with ACC reveals there are no crash stats relating to slow drivers, and nor do MoT crash stats record cases in which a slow driver contributed to a crash. But ACC programme manager Phil Wright says 65 crashes in 2008 were coded ‘driver waved through’ which, he says, suggests a slow driver signalled a following driver to overtake when it wasn’t safe.

Which reminds me of another soap-box topic; slow drivers who do pull over – where there is no hard shoulder, and on a blind bend. I am not going to cross the centre line to pass when I can’t see it’s safe; I don’t want to cause someone else’s death, let alone my own. Meantime, I’m at risk from cars coming round the blind bend behind me, as I wait for the owner of the waving hand ahead to realise I’m not going to be drawn into silly driving behaviour.

Some people are, though – almost certainly, a number of the 29 crashes that year attributed to ‘overtaking a line’ were impatient or risk-taking drivers bombing past a slow-poke when it wasn’t safe.

Perhaps NZ needs the same law that prevents Washington State, USA drivers from holding up traffic. If your slow driving on a road where overtaking isn’t possible causes an open road traffic queue of more than five cars, you must pull over as soon as it’s safe, or you’ll be fined US$124, and the roads are signposted to suit.

Perhaps the same law here would get the slowest cars to pull over. Assuming they’re checking their mirrors, of course.

Read past Girl TORQUE columns here.

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