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Ed Said - Are our roads really that bad?


dadWe seem prepared, at times, to portray ourselves as the lame duck in the world of motoring, proclaiming we have the worst roads in the western world and the worst drivers. This is apparently based on statistical evidence according to population which shows an abnormal or at least an unsat-isfactory number of ‘road deaths’ that oc-cur annually – and there I have a problem. Why are these not called ‘traffic deaths’? In no accident I have ever read about has the road ever moved in any way as to cause an ‘accident’. And there I have another problem. Accidents don’t just happen, they are caused, either by speed, alcohol or driver inattention or a partial combination of each or all three.

A very rare (fortunately) occurrence for Mangawhai was the death of a husband, father and provider on Queen’s Birthday weekend. At the scene in the wee small hours of the morning, Snr Sgt Jesse Mowatt from Waitemata said he believed speed and alcohol were contributing fac-tors. That’s simply speed and alcohol doing what they do best. The tragedy is the trau-ma that besets those left behind.

Two recent instances of cars doing a U-turn into the path of, on both occasions, logging trucks can in no way be attributed to the state of the road. A head-on crash at Tauranga in May killed three members of the one family. A resident close to the crash site said the piece of road was notorious for ‘accidents’. What is notorious is the drivers who are desperate to pass slower traffic be-fore they reach the end of a passing lane, a jam occurs, maybe a little indecision and two cars meet head-on. No fault of the road. The warnings are everywhere – drive to the conditions. The tragedy is the innocent par-ties drawn into these situations.

In Southland a young man died days after an ‘accident’. There were five young men in the Toyota Landcruiser, returning from an after-match function. The vehicle left the road in the early hours of the morning. Alcohol and speed were thought to be factors said police. The five were spewed out and none of them were wearing seat belts. But really what it means is the car was driven off the road.

We still allow ourselves a number of distractions: changing CDs, drinking coffee, those who persist in answering their cell phones or texting. A woman in the UK

was last week given a ticket and a hundred pound fine for eating a banana and, according to the officer “not having both hands on the wheel.” She was stopped in gridlocked traffic at the time.

Police are forever telling us that ‘one road death is one too many.’ To get no road deaths, especially on a long weekend is, quite frankly, dreaming and shows a com-plete denial of human nature. The respon-sibility is ours (drivers) and ours alone. How often have you had a car zip past you on leaving Mangawhai heading to Auckland, only to find it in the queue two or three cars ahead at Warkworth?

Our roads, certainly in the north, do not hold up as long as they should with the surfaces even on major roads breaking down within a year, but driving to the conditions is still relevant and means just that. These warning signs are there for a purpose – our safety.

It’s always better to arrive late than be dead on time, a cliché which is nonetheless true.

Something to ponder.


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