Ed Said - Better to be late than dead on time
Apart from the analysis, aftermath and recovery from the Christchurch Mosque shootings, the other major news item in early April was the ‘horror on our roads’ when, in little more than a week, a total of 26 people died through vehicle accidents including cars, trucks, motorbikes, a cyclist and a pedestrian.
We often read that ‘Kiwi’s are the worst drivers in the world’ and many bemoan the state of our roads. Our annual tally of road deaths usually includes tourists unaccustomed to driving on the left hand side of the road but that was not the case in this instance. So to what can we attribute such tragedy?
There appears not one specific reason, nor is there one answer. Some happened on damp roads, most involved a single vehicle, some occupants were not belted in, some in clear weather and on straight roads, some where speed may have been involved, some where alcohol may have been involved, mechanical failure, then we have tiredness – always possible when accidents happen in the early hours of the morning – emotional stress or just plain driver inattention. Ultimately the responsibility rests with the driver.
Someone explained to me years ago there is no such thing as a car ‘accident’, there is always a cause. It seems the initial reaction for those not closely involved with the dead and injured is to play the blame game – our roads are shocking, the police shouldn’t give chase. There was no police chase involved in any of these accidents. The sad reality is the loss of innocent lives.
Every road safety advertisement I have seen carries the warning ‘drive to the conditions’ though so many seem to think that an open speed limit permits you to travel at 100kph regardless of weather, driver experience, road or car condition, or time of day. You simply cannot make excuses for naivety, inexperience or just plain stupidity. It’s not easy to draw parallels in each case as one accident may involve a single driver crash whereas, a single accident near Taupo for example, claimed the lives of five people though only one vehicle was involved.
Incidentally, police are now telling us they are ticketing more drivers using their cellphones than are over the alcohol limit and does the number of deaths have any relation to the increasing number of cars on our roads? Car numbers are growing around 5 per cent annually so that doesn’t really equate.
Some other statistics make interesting reading too. The outer reaches of our country where the roads are longer, winding and often metalled as in Kaipara, tend to have the lowest level of road fatalities. Despite that one horror week there have been 113 road deaths in the year to date. This compares to 115 at the same time last year. Of that number 10 are attributed to Northland compared to 17 at the same time last year. Between 1970 and 1990 annual road death figures were mostly over 600 yet for the last decade they have been under 400 with 378 in 2017 and 380 last year.
There is little one can draw as a conclusion except to endorse the message that a motor vehicle is a great way to travel provided it is used as intended, as a luxury or a convenience, and not as a weapon. And heed the signs.