James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Road safety

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

I caught this road safety ad on television the other day, which seemed to be urging people not to watch YouTube videos while they drive. This may well be a case of me taking the ad way too literally, and it was actually about not driving while distracted or something, but I can't say this for sure because I got distracted halfway through the ad - not by driving, I hasten to add, but by a cat or something.

Obviously I'm all in favour of road safety and, by extension, the advertisements that help us achieve this goal. I am intrigued, however, at how increasingly specific the advertisements are becoming. Having covered the big topics like drunk driving and driving too fast, we're now getting deep into the various subsets of stupidity while driving - texting and driving; eating and driving; being young and driving; and now, apparently, watching YouTube videos and driving. If we continue along this path it will only be a matter of time before there is an ad aimed only at Konrad Hurrell.

Again, I repeat, I am all in favour of road safety and any and all advertising aimed at achieving the worthy goal of a lower road toll - it sure beats the heck out of any and all hamburger chain advertising, that's for sure.

What I'm getting at here is that if we're targeting small enclaves of crap driving, then I have two I want to add to the list: Caffeine-cravers and Primary School Drop-off/Pick-up-ers.

Caffeine-cravers are dangerous because of their irritability, unpredictability and desperation. There is a cafe not far from me, on a reasonably busy road, down which I sometimes drive the kids to school on days when the whole getting the bus thing has failed. This cafe is on a bend in the road and negotiating that bend is often a nightmare because of Caffeine-cravers and their addiction-driven driving.

Caffeine-cravers are at their worst first thing in the morning, when their caffeine levels are dangerously low. They can often be found travelling at glacial speed in the vicinity of the cafe, desperately searching for a parking space as close to the damn cafe as possible.

Any parking space will do - a loading zone; on broken yellow lines; on the berm; on someone's front lawn if necessary - just as long as it is somewhere big enough to fit a vehicle, so that they may then sprint from that vehicle into the welcoming arms of their barista.

The most dangerous thing about Caffeine-cravers is that when they spot a parking space they will go for it with no thought of road rules or the personal safety of those around them. "Must Get Coffee" is the only law they understand when the foot goes down on that accelerator, and their late-model SUV becomes a missile, targeting the space that will bring them one step closer to filling their caffeine void.

Drop-off/Pick-up-ers are the Jekylls and Hydes of our city streets. In pre-drop-off and post-pick-up modes, with offspring aboard, they are generally excellent drivers, although possibly distracted by who has forgotten what and what happened at school that has someone in tears. Sure, the vehicular scrum around school drop-off/pick-up points is a nightmare, especially when buses are also involved. But within the chaos of the drop-off or pick-up there is actually order, like in a beehive, with the species' task of getting the offspring into and out of the school without harm taking precedence over anything else.

Then the change happens. Post-drop-off, these are people who now know they have only a few scant hours to get everything they need to do done before they must be back here for pick-up. They are also behind the wheel of the one thing that can get them to all the places they need to be in the shortest possible time. They have limited freedom and God help anyone who gets in their path. To make matters worse, they are often also Caffeine-cravers.

At the other end of the day, immediately pre-pick-up, they are frustrated people. These are parents who have failed to achieve half the stuff they needed to do in their days. What is more, they are also probably running late and, by now, the chances of them also being over-caffeinated are quite high. They are ticking time-bombs, with a primal need to retrieve their young. Stay well clear, if you know what is good for you.

Yes, I admit in terms of the carnage end of the road-toll statistics the Caffeine-cravers and the Drop-off/Pick-up-ers are probably not overly represented. But they are definitely out there and if driving YouTube watchers can get their own ad, why not these people?

Just can it please not be one of those ads where everyone has the creepy deep voice? Those are just wrong.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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