Just before Christmas, I received an absolute doozy of a talkback call. The gentleman was calling in the response to one of those hardy talkback chestnuts - the lowering of the speed limit over public holidays in a bid to reduce the road toll. And Craig had very strong views about idiots daring to apply speed limits to the likes of him. I've encountered Craigs before on talkback - entitled, bombastic men who drive late-model cars - but I hadn't heard from such a Craig in quite some time.
I had thought perhaps that attitudes around speeding might have been changing. More fool me. Craig is a dinosaur still walking among us - and worse - he's on the roads with us too. This is what he had to say about speed limits.
"I don't observe road rules, I just go for it. Passing lanes I just pull out and pass 10 cars doing 140, 160 if I need to. I'm not going to sit behind them all bloody day."
I expostulated and told him that kind of attitude was going to kill somebody, but Craig knew better.
"No, I'm not," he said. "My car's late model, with all the features, I'm a superior driver ..."
That's when I lost it, ranted a bit and hung up on him. I've heard guys like that hundreds of times over the years and I couldn't bear to hear another one, trotting out the same old justifications as to why rules don't apply to them.
The Craigs of this world are not the only bad drivers - I'm terrified when I see a young woman in a brightly coloured car packed to the gunwales with her pretty little friends screaming along the motorway, texting with one hand as she speeds - but the Craigs seem to feel they have an absolute right to drive as they wish and interpret the rules as they see fit and aren't ashamed or afraid to say so.
I had wondered where the Craigs of this world come from. Are they born or are they made? And I had the answer this week. They evolve from young Kingstons. Kingston Webb was blatting along State Highway 2, near Napier Airport last year, when he was clocked by a police officer travelling 148km/h in an 80km/h zone.
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When asked by the officer why he was speeding, Kingston replied: "I guess I was being stupid." Rookie error, Kingston. When you grow up and become a Craig, you'll know the correct answer is "because I bloody well can".
Kingston was subsequently charged with dangerous driving and just recently he had his date with the beak. He pleaded not guilty. And blow me down the beak agreed with him. Eighteen-year-old Webb, who's a law student, wanted to challenge the charge because he thought it would be an interesting process given his degree, but also because he didn't think his speeding had been dangerous. He argued that he knew the road like the back of his hand, he'd been fully licensed for nearly a year and was well aware there were road works coming up. He said he normally drove at the speed limit but he'd had a rush of blood to the head when he planted his foot in his Suzuki Swift.
And Judge David Harvey sympathised. In his finding, he ruled that Webb was driving on a straight road with a good seal, the driving conditions were fine, there were no driveways coming out onto the highway, or any other roads, no parked cars, no other vehicles in the vicinity and that Webb was not driving erratically. The only concern was the road works which he observed that Webb was aware of and had adjusted his speed accordingly. So he acquitted Webb of the dangerous driving charge and amended it to one of driving at excessive speed for which Webb was fined $400 and ordered to pay $130 court costs. No disqualification, so young Kingston can drive the Suzuki Swift to his heart's content.
I can see where the judge is coming from. I really can. I get that speeding doesn't necessarily mean dangerous driving. And that common sense should so often prevail and doesn't. But sadly not everyone has common sense, and our own concept of what is reasonable doesn't necessarily correlate with what others might think is reasonable. That's why we have laws. We might think they're stupid. We might think they don't apply to us. We might just want to ignore the rules one balmy Hawke's Bay night and put our foot down in the Suzuki Swift and floor it, and thrill to the judder running through the Suzuki as it meets the limits of its speed.
And if we're unlucky enough to be pinged while we're fanging our Suzuki Swift down State Highway 2, thank heavens for the likes of Judge Harvey. Kingston is a lucky little law student. He'll probably make a very good lawyer given his experience of taking on the system and winning. But I hope he's learned his lesson and doesn't evolve into a Craig. It doesn't have to be a fait accompli. And we all need to be aware, every time we go out on the roads, that the Craigs and the Kingstons are out there. Given that they have absolutely no intention of looking out for us, we need to be on the highest alert for them.