I've gotta' say, in the Western world, New Zealand drivers are pretty much the worst I've ever seen. I've been one of them. I know.
Confession time. As a teen up until about 25, I drove like an escaped prisoner. I drove fast, arrogantly, imbibed alcohol, and lived rurally. Let's just say, I'm lucky to be earthbound today and not to have taken anyone with me.
I was no girl racer - preferring to look down upon their choice of ride - but I did have my father's Hemi 265 Valiant to run around in and, boy, did I ever. He and I both deluded ourselves that I could drop him off at his local on a Friday night, and return later to be his "safe" driver back home with zero alcohol having passed my lips.
The laws and stigma around drink driving were just starting to crank up in the 80s. Dad was worried that he'd be caught over the limit and lose his ability to get in to town. Me? No worries. I was bulletproof. And so it proved. I somehow got away with it.
None of this makes me feel anything other than extremely lucky. Sure, it was a different time, and living in the wops felt like a free societal pass to drive riskily, but I did know better.
I was driving trains around that time and can honestly say that I diligently never ever went to work with alcohol fresh in my system. For some strange reason I valued my job on the tracks more than my life on the roads.
It's true that farm life saw me driving the tractor and motorbike at an excruciatingly young age. With that came a level of skill that I believed matched my overconfidence, and here I am today. Basically, a relatively safe driver with experience both here and in other countries.
Whenever I'm driving in the States, and on the other side of the road, I am struck by how courteous and skilled they are. Their population, combined with generally good roads, makes for an overall positive experience. But as soon as I get back home, I encounter a totally different sensation. Amazement.
I won't deny our driving conditions are far more challenging. The terrain is different, and so are our roads. How to describe them? In too many places they're laughably hillbillyish - to the point that one can hear the banjos playing while negotiating them.
New Zealand's high road toll continues to reflect these roads. Our roads are often sub-standard, and drivers are simply not driving to the conditions. Our speed limits too are often ridiculously high for the roads they pertain to. Consequently, we are on track to have our fourth consecutive rise in the road toll this year.
According to analysis carried out by NZ Initiative researcher Sam Warburton, the chance of a car occupant dying on the road was 41 per cent higher than it was in 2013, and 12 per cent higher than last year.
So, what's going on? Is it smartphones? Is it a lack of proper driver training? Is it foreign drivers? Not wearing seatbelts? Unsafe vehicles? Alcohol? Drugs? Road condition? Speed? Experts are struggling to answer these questions, and the Ministry of Transport has undertaken at least three studies into the road toll since 2013 which have led to nothing definitive.
On top of this, most of the country has been without fixed speed cameras for more than a year, police confirmed last week. Their own website also states that the link between speed cameras and reducing speed was well documented. But, if they're not operating, then obviously the deterrent isn't there.
It's clear that the problem lies squarely with all of these factors. But I have a strong suspicion that another dynamic is at play, and it's attitudinal. We are a nation of seething, simmering rage that finds full expression when we get behind the wheel.
We're quick to blame tourists for accidents, but ask tourists what they think of us behind the wheel. The feedback is consistent. We are angry, tail-gating, intolerant, ill-mannered monsters who view our vehicles as an extension of our......selves.
The Automobile Association hears the feedback and has echoed their complaints, describing the average car-bound Kiwi as "impatient" and "not very courteous". Even police bosses have acknowledged New Zealand's "history and reputation for having aggressive drivers".
None of which bodes well for the future road toll. Each of these "statistics" represent a real person - mourned by family and friends. We can lament the people who've gone, while not knowing who of the next 60 plus will be leaving us this year on the nation's roads. Their deaths are a given.
Meanwhile, the endless studies and reports will continue to be churned out. As will the funerals.