With regularity, a siren sounds in Hikurangi calling volunteers to the fire station. It never fails to make you feel apprehensive, knowing that in all likelihood there's been a car accident nearby.
Over the years these volunteer firemen will have attended accidents where there have been horrific injuries and fatalities. Which must give you a different perspective on driving on our roads, being that close to the worst that can happen.
For the rest of us, the psychology of the human mind is such that we mostly shut our minds to the risk. We have to get around, and we enjoy the freedom a car gives us.
Read more: Vaughan Gunson: Thank you Lorde for taking the heat over Israel
Vaughan Gunson embraces a fool's endeavour, what will happen next year
Vaughan Gunson: Cobham Oval Black Caps vs West Indies in Whangarei a flashback to one's younger days
It's sobering to think, though, that driving back and forth from work each day via State Highway 1 is the most dangerous thing I do, only bettered by those rare occasions when I cycle.
My New Year's resolution, then, is to keep reminding myself that the road is a dangerous place, which, since my mind doesn't naturally focus on the worst that can happen (in everyday life at least), this will be something I'll have to work at.
To help me though, I only have to reflect on the accumulated evidence of the past few weeks, where I've witnessed multiple acts of impatient driving, speeding and crazy overtaking. I can trust most of my fellow road users, but I probably shouldn't trust them all.
There's some out there - and let's admit, it's mostly us men - who think they're invincible, that their driving "skills" are of the Formula One racing-type, not those of a school bus driver.
Putting in place lower speed limits on roads with a history of accidents seems wise, to slow some of us down. I'm learning to drive 80km/h instead of 100km/h from Piano Hill, just south of Hikurangi, to Springs Flat at the north end of Whangarei. It takes a conscious effort at times, but doing so feels safer.
And the new Government's plan to divert money from expensive roading projects into making existing roads safer is sensible. The wire rope barriers now on the Brynderwyn Hills look like a good idea. More of them in Northland, please.
Rumble strips on centre lines and at the side of the road - those small bumps that make your steering wheel shudder - are proven to reduce accidents. The road safety nerds know what works, give them the budget to do what needs to be done.
But I'm realistic to concede that the road toll won't reduce to zero, or anywhere close to that. People will make mistakes. And there's a small percentage of drivers who seem not to care about endangering others, through the enjoyment of speed, risk, or inability to take a chill pill when confronted with a slower vehicle in front of them.
Also, there are people sadly alienated from the rest of society, careless driving being one aspect of a much larger problem.
Firemen and other emergency services workers must continue to despair at the carnage and our human fallibility.
Perhaps compulsory triage training and stints as volunteer firemen would snap us out of any lingering disrespect for human life on the roads.