Two decades ago, sitting on the balcony of my Da Nang hotel room in central Vietnam, I studied the traffic below.
The hotel lay on the corner of an intersection for five converging, heavily trafficked roads. Vietnamese life was fairly basic then so there were few cars, but lots of trucks, bullock carts, cycles and motorcycles and, with one exception, they all found their way through without stopping.
The exception were young women on motorcycles or bicycles who would panic, dismount and walk through.
On my return, I was the guest speaker at the launch of an environmental initiative by the Hutt City. Afterwards, I regaled the mayor, Glen Evans, about my Da Nang experience.
At the time I was campaigning against the unnecessary traffic lights popping up everywhere and planned to erect billboards on the city's outskirts saying, "Welcome to Lower Hutt: the traffic-light capital of the world". Glen called over the city traffic engineer and I started to get stuck into him. But he interrupted and told me my advocacy was in fact now received thinking in international traffic engineering magazines. "Excellent! Let's pull them all out, then," I urged, and, amazingly, both Glen and the engineer concurred.
Accordingly, at their next meeting, the council agreed to turn off the lights for a one-month trial. TVNZ said they'd document the exercise, which they hoped to sell world-wide. At that juncture, National's supposed libertarian then Transport Minister, Maurice Williamson, intervened and scrubbed the exercise.
Not to be beaten, the council instead ripped most of the lights out and replaced them with dozens of roundabouts in the central city. But talk about unintended consequences - what wasn't anticipated was the women problem.
Things became and remain chaotic as women drivers caused massive pile-ups at the roundabouts. They misinterpret the simple proposition of giving way to traffic on your right as stopping if someone's approaching 50 metres away.
The problem got so bad the late Greg King's wife, Catherine, herself a barrister, packed it in for a few years, furious at the five-minute drive to her Hutt office now becoming 25 minutes through terrified women parked at the roundabouts.
Women drivers possibly cost 1 per cent off our GNP, through causing massive delays in city traffic flows. Nowhere in the world do people drive in the right-hand lane as women persistently do here, blocking the free-flowing traffic.
I hammered the police on this a few years ago. Initially, they denied the problem but after some ferocious exchanges, the Deputy Commissioner wrote conceding my complaint and included the results of their own inquiry.
They'd bailed up a swag of these women, reminded them of the "keep left unless passing" rule and had them complete a two-question "tick the box" form.
The first offered explanatory options for this right-lane obsession of the "had my mind on other things" kind and the like, but near the bottom they slipped in "sheer bloody-mindedness". Unbelievably, a large number ticked that.
The second question related to age. Ninety per cent of the offenders were in their 30s, which accords with my observation. I suspect they're angry because they haven't got a bloke, or angrier still because they have, for which I sympathise.
Older women drive slowly but apart from not taking off when the lights go green, they cause no trouble because they keep left.
I met a newly arrived Serbian doctor in Auckland a few years ago. She said she was moving to Australia because our women were driving her crazy with their right-hand lane hogging and taking six seconds to take off at the lights. Bang me in a helicopter during rush hour and I'll pick out the women drivers.
They're the ones with a 30-metre gap between them and the car in front, thereby compounding the congestion. Not all women offend, just as I similarly have Asian friends irate about Asians' slow driving.
Indeed, the zippiest drivers I've ever encountered were, first, former MP Sonja Davies, who even as an old lady knew only one speed, namely flat out.
The other was my mother, who viewed red lights as an affront to her liberty. At the age of 91, she bought a Jaguar sports car. It lasted an hour before she wrote it off and was cut out of it, upside down, by the fire brigade.
On the occasions I go to my Wellington office, what should take three minutes extends to 15 because of women drivers creeping about causing chaos.
To overcome this, I bought what I was assured was New Zealand's fastest car, with a super-charged V12 engine.
My weaving in and out of the women resulted in complaints to the police, who wrote to me.
I replied, first pointing out that passing is not illegal and adding that while normally I don't condone police violence, this was an exception and they would be doing God's work by going to the complainants' homes, beating the crap out of them and burning their houses down.
Amazingly they wrote me a nice reply apologising for bothering me.
Right now a bunch of young Saudi women are agitating to be allowed to drive. It's a tough one. For by Allah they've got that prohibition on women driving right and should probably kick for touch and maintain the status quo for fear their women will drive like ours.
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