Inevitably, when you are on a road trip at this time of year you expect delays. There's more traffic on the road, we are in holiday mode and there are more drivers who only periodically travel long distances with trailer, boat or roof rack loaded. In Northland, there are bottlenecks at Wellsford and Warkworth and we could potentially become impatient.
So it was for us last Friday, heading back from the southern end of Lake Taupō, expecting the trip to take about seven hours with breaks. It took almost 10 hours to get home with two significant delays due to crashes on State Highway One.
Generally the traffic was very well behaved, travelling at 90-95km/h, seemingly keeping safe distances, indicating at passing lanes and with very little hoonish behaviour. But it only takes one distraction or mistaken judgement to alter everyone's time schedule.
Both crashes were on wide, straight roads with plenty of sight distance, in full daylight and both involved one car crossing the centre line. The one at Karapiro was a T-bone on the driver's side. Both these cars were on tow trucks as we passed, police were tidying up and two ambulances had gone past.
The second crash was a head-on just south of Waipu between a car and a 4x4 with a boat in tow. The car driver had crossed the centre line and died. The road was closed for four hours. We caught the end of the queue at the bottom of the Brynderwyns, saw what was happening and diverted back through Maungaturoto.
These experiences are hugely tragic for those involved and we cannot trivialise that anguish. It is fact of road life, though, that people make mistakes and these experiences have caused some reflection about what other drivers do that annoy us when we are behind the wheel.
These are largely personal observations, but the ultimate almanac, Google, is also replete with driver pet hates and this short list is a distillation of these niggles. Any exercise like this, though, does involve us looking in the mirror and reflecting on our own driver behaviour.
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• Tailgating. My wife hates tailgaters. She's vocal when any driver gets closer to her rear than indicated by the two-second gap. The interpretation is an impatient driver behind and she pulls over to let them pass at the first opportunity.
• Indicating. Failure to indicate your intention to turn, change lanes, or how you go through a roundabout really irks other drivers. Implicit in this is ensuring you indicate your intention appropriately in advance and not in the middle of the act.
• Dangerous overtaking or cutting corners. If you encounter one of these guys you are in trouble. Mitigating the effects of this is the reason we have mid-road yellow sticks and wire-rope barriers around Whangārei. Failing to keep left is a major failing.
• Poor merging Behaviour. You're on a merging intersection, indicating that you are merging but the driver beside you seems determined not to provide you with a gap. Merging like a zip, one on one at the point of merge, has been proven to more efficient than an early merge.
• Slow drivers who won't pull over or who speed up at a passing lane. Excessive speed can cause a mess but slow speed causes stress. Pull over if you are lost or drive slower than the traffic flow and let others through.
• Finally, there are angry drivers. Motorcyclists, particularly comment on this. The bike or motorcycle can safely and legally filter past a queue of traffic and some motorists don't like it. Anger can lead to irrational behaviour and road rage. There are enough driving challenges out there without that.
That's my list. There are obvious gaps such as cell phone use and red-light running, but they are for another day. What makes you grumpy on the road?