How to have fun on a backroad without being a total muppet
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It's as Kiwi as the disgusting taste of Marmite and the decision to not vote come election time then complain about the result — it's the beautiful, often bending, B road.
We at Driven love a good backroad, and in New Zealand we're spoiled for choices. It's cliché, but also true; this country is home to some of the best driver's roads in the world.
But, with the presence of such brilliant roads comes those who squander and disrespect them. Don't want to be one of those people? Here's five tips, free of charge and on the house.
1. No tailgating
The road isn't yours. You don't own it.
Don't play that tired 'I pay my taxes' line, either.
While you might class your local curly road is the mental, adult equivalent of a local playground, remember that people most likely live on it. Cyclists cycle it, walkers walk it, tourists get lost on it ... I could go on.
So when you come around a corner and find someone travelling 30km/h under the speed limit, don't get frustrated at them and don't do anything too silly. If your backroad of choice is as narrow and treacherous as mine, then passing isn't really going to be an option.
It's best in those scenarios to either declare defeat, or to stop in a layby and hop on your phone for five minutes, play some music, light up a smoke, or whatever your want to do to pass time while the traffic clears out.
2. Headlights on
This was a trick that I had embedded in my skull from when I used to work in forestry; headlights on, anywhere, all the time.
The primary purpose in this application was that having your headlights on was a good indicator of presence on the proverbial logging routes off road through the trees — a measure you appreciate when you're in a piddly little Hilux and a massive truck and trailer set-up is coming the other way.
And driving on a B road is kind of similar when you think about it. You don't know when or where a car will approach coming the other way, so anything you can do to make yourself more visible is going to help.
And yes, even in the crystal clear daytime, having your lights on makes you easier to see. Especially if you drive a silver car.
This is something I've adopted for all general driving, and for those who aren't lucky enough to own a newer car with day time running lights ... I'd encourage you to do the same.
3. Know the road
This one's pretty straightforward.
I have a theory for why car crashes tend to grow in number during holiday periods. Normally, we're told that they grow simply because there are more people on the road and the chances of making 'bad decisions' increases.
I think another factor is that people are often driving on roads that they simply aren't familiar with.
So, with that in mind, know that you give yourself a much better chance of having fun if you know your local roads like the back of your hand. Not just where the corners are, but what gears to take them in, where the pot holes are, whether they're cambered, where there's most likely to be a build-up of people, where the drop-offs and intersections are ... and so on.
This kind of thinking can only improve the amount of fun you'll have, and will come in handy when it comes to graduating to driving on a race track.
4. No distractions
Hide your phone, mute your music, and tell your passengers to shut the heck up.
Well maybe, we all have different thresholds for what distracts us. For example, I find music is a massive distractor for me, so when I'm on a backroad I turn it all the way down. And I do the same any time I have to reverse.
Wind back the clock some 20, 30 years, and distractions were pretty limited. But in a modern car they're practically everywhere; from monitoring your G forces to listening to the robotic lady in the GPS system, to playing with your driving modes on the fly.
The best way to stay focused is to tune as much of that out as possible.
5. Never drive at 100 per cent
This is the biggest one of them all.
The saying in the motoring world that's growing in usage at a rapid rate is the term '80 per cent car'. It defines a car that drives and handles really well up to the 80 per cent mark, but once you cross that barrier and try to drive it harder it falls apart.
It's a great descriptor, but I would argue that it somewhat skirts the fact that anyone who goes beyond that 80 per cent guideline is more likely than not driving irresponsibly.
If you old an older car you can probably fight me on that point. But modern cars, even down to the stuff built specifically for boring people, is generally really really fast.
A lot of them pack turbocharged engines, all-wheel drive, and all manner of traction and stability control silliness under the skin making them surprisingly easy to ease to the limit of their performance.
So, save that 20 per cent of trying spare. Save it for the cat crossing the road that you'll need to slam on the brakes for, or the speed bump you totally forgot about that's on the other side of the blind corner.
You and your community will be better off for it.