There has been much musing and solemn speculation from many quarters about the reasons behind New Zealand's grim road-toll statistics.

Bad roads, more cars, alcohol, drugs, cellphone use, lack of policing, lack of working speed cameras – all make an appearance.

Attitudinal factors seldom rate a mention. We are an angry nation, and we find expression behind the wheel. Yet, we tolerate it.

Read more: Rachel Stewart: I got the end-of-humanity blues


Collectively, as long as we are not too disturbed by boy racers, we generally think of them as harmless. Just boys being boys. No worries, as long as it's not happening near my place.

Well, it's happening near my place, and has been for three long years since I moved most of my life to Whanganui from Wellington. I've stayed relatively schtum about it. Resale values, and all that. Now, I'm throwing caution to the wind.

We came home because we wanted a peaceful rural life. Our property is a sanctuary of trees and birds. My memory of what was once a quiet country lane, and the reality of the situation, have collided.

We reside on the corner section at the junction of two intersecting roads, which have now effectively become the equivalent of Manfeild raceway.

One road runs directly to a popular beach north of the city. It is mostly straight but narrow, and the speed limit is set at 100km/h. The intersecting road is also predominantly straight and links with the western suburbs of the city, and is also 100km/h.

I'd hazard a pretty good guess that both roads are two of the busiest rural roads in Whanganui. Despite this, and years of residents complaining about the combination of speed and boy racers, the district council - in all its sagacity and wisdom – recently lowered the speed to 80km/h on other rural roads, but not these two.

Let me describe as best I can, without using the 'F' word, what is going on here.

Day after day, and night after night, snotty-nosed, pimply-faced little males in hotted-up pieces of predominantly imported Japanese junk, drive at speeds that would make Rocket Lab sit up and take notice.


These imbeciles drift sideways up and down the road, tyres smoking, stereo pumping, beer cans flying. On occasion, they wipe out and I am left to repair my fences. They always leave the scene before I can get to them. If I could actually get to them, I worry what I will do.

Yes, I've called the police but, every single time they've said they don't have enough manpower to deal with the situation. You learn very fast too, that you'll end up pissing them off if you keep complaining. They make that very clear. So you stop calling.

You try and tell yourself that it will be better in winter when the roads quieten down. You try and tell yourself that it's not that bad, and you try and block out the interminable exhaust noise of cars and motorbikes. I've never heard vehicles stay in third gear so long without blowing up.

The feeling is one of powerlessness. If the local council doesn't care, and the police won't accept video evidence of dangerous driving that risks both life and limb, then what can we do? I know we're not alone in this, despite that fact that it feels like it.

New Zealanders are struggling with this issue every day. Yet, we now know that nearly 100 dedicated road police positions have been cut in the past five years, while the road toll rose 50 per cent in the same period. Crashes on our roads killed 253 people in 2013, but five years later it had risen by 49.8 per cent to 379 in 2017.

Adding fuel to the fire, police confirmed last October that most of the country has been without fixed speed cameras for more than a year. Their own website also states that the link between speed cameras and reducing speed was well documented. This is not rocket science.

And because I'm forced to listen to exhausts so excessively ear-splitting that my soul bleeds, I've a suggestion for the new Government that would solve at least some of the problem overnight.

How about getting the testing stations to actually adhere to the legal exhaust noise limits when carrying out WOFs?

Yes, there are restrictions but you'd never know it. They're still far too high in comparison to European limits for example, but they exist. I can say, with absolute certainty, the decibel limits are consistently exceeded around these parts.

That, in combination with more police doing more targeted road policing, speed cameras that work, and councils that want to help their ratepayers live sane lives, might actually save lives.

Speaking of saving lives, directly across the road from us is a busy country school.

Need I say more?

Follow Rachel Stewart on Twitter: @RFStew