The five stupidest, dumbest things Kiwi motorists do too often
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New Zealand, it's time to level with you — you're not great at driving.
Oh sure, when compared to the colourful tales of those who come back to this long-white-cloud covered land from places like India and the Philippines, Kiwi drivers might not sound so bad (speaking as a half-cast Filipino myself). But that doesn't mean we're perfect.
And we're far from it.
This list of five isn't going to cover the obvious things. Don't expect to see anything about using phones while driving, drinking and driving, or ... um ... 'boy racer' behaviour.
These are things that continue to be commonplace on the roads of Auckland and around the country (Christchurch, eyes on you buddy), but aren't necessarily circled and underlined in the latest Road Code. Anyway, on with the show.
Beats by stupidity
There's nothing wrong with enjoying some sweet beats in your car, and even maybe jamming out to it yourself (those with horrible singing voices; windows shut please).
But there's plenty wrong with doing so via a pair of headphones or earbuds.
The act of listening to music in the car with headphones instead of using the car's headset perplexes me to begin with. Regardless of how good your device is, it's probably worse than your car's system.
Which raises the question of ... why? Perhaps there are more people out there than I'd expect driving cars with broken radios/CD players. The real culprit however is probably streaming apps like Spotify, and people who want to listen to their own music playlists but don't have an AUX jack or bluetooth-equipped head unit.
Nonetheless, it's a dangerous practice. While these devices will help you listen to the music, they'll also generally tune out all other noises. This is particularly true for anything that lists itself as 'noise cancelling' — these generally play a reversed frequency in the background of tracks that helps block out the chirpings, beeps, and buzzes of real life.
All of this serves to suck one's spatial awareness dry. It's surprising just how often as a driver, one will hear danger before seeing danger. This could include the sirens of police, ambos, or the fire department looming in your rear-view mirror, or perhaps the drunken buffoon who's run their red light at the intersection just as yours goes green.
Your car could be having mechanical issues and you wouldn't know it as your thumbs scroll through Taylor Swift's latest. Just use your car's system. And if it's broken, new head units with AUX jacks are cheap as chips.
Water is wet
Photo / file
Kiwis have an incredible knack for completely forgetting everything they've ever learned about driving as soon as the first spot of water impacts their windscreen.
Aucklanders are bad for this, but from my experience it's something that leaks to the rest of the country. As soon as the rain comes ahead of a morning commute, you know that you're going to be at least another 10 or 20 minutes later to work than you would be otherwise.
Now, there's some finesse to navigate here. Driving to the conditions is great; thumbs up for everyone that hops into a car and 'takes it easy' when the roads are soaked. Standing water, camouflaged road markings, and reduced braking distances all pose a threat in the rain.
But, there's people at the other end of the scale that seem to go ballistic. They 'forget' to check their blind spots while changing lanes. They get into nose-to-tails. They manage to be both deeply impatient and dopey at the same time.
Don't be a 'they'.
Photo / Getty Images
Trucks could be a topic all by themselves in this discussion, as they raise a whole bunch of Kiwi driving quirks.
Before we progress, it's worth noting that I don't support the truck witch-hunt that some people subscribe too. This is more of an Australian thing, but generally it should be noted that truck drivers are GCs and deserve respectful treatment on the roads.
In terms of car drivers, we need to realize more often that the brake distances for trucks are way way way larger than cars. So when switching lanes on the motorway in front of a truck, make sure they've got plenty of room to slow down (particular if you're in slowing traffic) otherwise your car might turn into a metal pancake (and it'd be your fault, too).
In terms of truck drivers, please stop clogging up motorways by passing each other...
It's so common, seeing one truck that appears to have a top speed of 92km/h wheezing past another truck with a top speed of 88km/h — burning up entire passing-lane passages while a Trulli train that's a dozen cars long grows by the second.
Of course, the time lost behind trucks going to war on a passing lane is always annoying. But it's important to not do anything rash. Speaking of...
I'm not really talking about road rage, here. Once people start using their voices and their mad array of gestures, it goes from being a driving problem to a people problem. And that's an issue for another publication to dissect by way of listicle.
No, I'm talking about people who tailgate and people who swerve between lanes.
I speak here as a reformed tailgater. Coming home from work in years gone by, those parked on 99km/h in the fast lane used to see the big headlights of my work ute in their rear-view mirror until they got the message. Time has passed and I've noted the error of my ways.
Tailgating is a simple and straight example of disregard of other motorists, nothing more nothing less. It's important to note too, though, that people who park in the fast lane to deliberately block those wanting to use it are just as bad.
Swerving between lanes is pretty common in Auckland during peak hours, as drivers try and keep themselves on the fastest lane to, in theory, achieve a faster arrival time. The reality is often that swerving from left to right in those scenarios accomplishes nothing.
Play this game the next time you encounter one of these lane-jumping drivers; stay in your lane, and see how long it takes for you to pass them back. I swear, half of the drivers I observe flopping from one lane to the other wind up losing time in the long run.
Big and small
How big is your car?
You probably can't answer that, and to be honest neither can I. But you'll be surprised at just how precise the average human can be at knowing exactly where the boundaries of their cars sit while they're driving.
This is a muscle memory thing as much as anything else, with the aid of various safety sensors in more contemporary cars helping matters of course.
But, while many of us are great at playing the size game, there are also a heap of drivers out there that suck.
I'm talking about those who place their cars in turning lanes only to have the bum-end poking out into traffic, presenting an obstruction for those rolling up behind. There are also the people who screech to a halt out of the blue, falsely thinking that their car can't fit between parked cars and those coming in the opposite direction.
This sounds like a nit-picky inclusion to the list, but they're an important one because their behavior cannot be predicted. At any point, they can decide to stand on the brake, at which time you (and anyone in your wake) better be ready to do the same.