Drivers who believe a line of parked cars on their side of the road is an invitation to swerve out, despite oncoming traffic on a narrow road, should cease reading now. Ditto those who think a slow bike rider is an equal excuse to ignore basic right-of-way rules. You’re probably incurable and your bad habits will only cease after a collision, near-miss or booking.
But maybe you’ve returned to Auckland already.
We islanders like to think bad driving is a tourist attribute, and while it’s true that thoughtless, entitled, arrogant and possibly even substance-fuelled highway misdemeanours increase over summer and during holiday weekends, there is a hard core of all-year-rounders. Like the guy in the battered Toyota ute who overtook a signalling bus coming off the cemetery stop on the Onetangi Straight. He must have accelerated out of a vineyard driveway, since he appeared only briefly in the driver’s mirror before he overtook him – and only just avoided a head-on with a truck.
You’d think the size and weight of a bus would act as a deterrent but apparently mass plus momentum no longer means inertia (or pain, suffering and possible death) to some people.
You’d also think most drivers would notice a large, blue bus. But ask any Waiheke bus driver and they’ll tell you about their near-daily encounters with people so desperate to reach their destination they’ll nip past a bus that is signalling and moving. Or move off a stop sign in front of them. Or sail through a give-way or stop sign without looking. Fortunately, despite local myth-makers’ opinions, the drivers undergo intensive training in safety, then pick up further survival skills on the road, so most of these incidents are near-misses. Next time you get frustrated because the bus driver in front is holding you up, think for a second that might be because he’s driving to the speed limit to ensure your safety.
Another problem is the arrogant entitlement that leads people to park their cars in clearly marked bus stops. When the bus inevitably arrives, the driver is forced to unload their passengers from a less-than-ideal or safe position.
The stop outside the bottle store in Oneroa is a case in point. Ignoring the idiocy of Auckland Transport putting a stop where courtesy, safety and respect for the law will always lose out to punters’ thirst, it’s a pretty diabolical individual who brazenly parks in a bus stop, then gives the fingers to a driver when they sound their horn. You’d almost think they had a problem.
Incidentally, I realise this is putting out the fire with gasoline, but the worst offenders seem to drive high end late-model cars, double-cab utes or king-sized SUVs. Maybe their bullying tactics (including ignoring right of way, cutting corners and speeding) work with smaller vehicles – but a bus? You have to suspect a degree of self-entitlement. Take the guy in the late-model Mercedes who sat in the narrow stop just past the Donald Bruce Road roundabout with a trailer-load of tree clippings. Honking didn’t move him, and he responded to a gentle request with abuse. Or the SUV driver, also with a trailer-load of rubbish, who ran the stop sign at the Countdown car park when a bus was leaving the stop just to his right. The bus driver braked and blew their horn – and was given the fingers by the apparently septuagenarian driver. Some people never grow up.
By the way, just because they removed the kerbing from the roundabout outside the Red Cross in Oneroa doesn’t mean normal roundabout give-way rules no longer apply. You’re still obliged to give way to your right and the intersection is governed by give-way signs. You are also obliged to indicate when turning off the roundabout, but not when entering if you’re going straight through, since that’s also misleading. Seems a lot of island drivers haven’t read their road code recently, given the numbers who sail straight through from the Little O end, oblivious to the right-turning traffic, including buses.
Then there’s hoonis hoonis horribilis, the common or garden hoon, otherwise known as the boy racer. As long as testosterone, acne, alcohol and inadequacy persist, he will continue to speed on too-narrow roads, leaving a trail of wrecked cars behind him.
I could go on for quite a bit longer, but the theme would be the same – we have a home-grown problem and it’s up to us to sort out our bad driving. It’s pretty simple really. But if you ignore basic courtesy, road rules or drink-driving guidelines, the consequences can be complex – and messy. • Jim Mahoney
Disclaimer: Gulf news sub-editor Jim Mahoney is also a taxi driver and former bus driver.