Last weekend, we had a spectre haunting our roads: a highway vigilante. He was nameless, known only by his actions.
Well, to be strictly accurate, his one action.
It was Sunday night. Our cruising crusader chased a tourist through the Lindis Pass, pulling him over and taking his keys.
The tourist driving a rental minivan had earlier, and allegedly, nearly collided with our vigilante, who promptly u-turned to give chase. The news reported social media lighting up in his support. The vigilante is seen as something of a highway hero.
The man himself is unapologetic. He says he would do it all again.
"As far as I see it, I just took the ammunition out of the gun. A car's a weapon in the hands of an idiot like that."
But the vigilante didn't want to own his action. He asked not to be named.
I think the guy is an idiot with a serious attitude problem. It's not hard to foresee circumstances in which his actions could quickly turn pear-shaped.
As it was, it wasn't great. It was raining. A window was left down. There were seven in the minivan, including three young children and an elderly diabetic. They were without food and water.
The stranded party tried to flag down other vehicles. No one stopped until Mason Brown, visiting with his family from the Gold Coast, happened along. He was able to supply bottled water and bananas. He described the stranded party as "freaked out".
Why wouldn't they be? They were tourists. They didn't know quite where they were. There was no cellphone coverage. They had been attacked in the wop-wops, left stranded and were no doubt disoriented and confused.
A bus driver rescued them to drive them back towards Tarras. The police, now alerted by the vigilante, met the bus to take the driver back to retrieve the van.
It's unclear who drove the van where. The tourist driver was charged with careless use. Visiting from Sydney, he holds a full Australian licence. He was perfectly entitled to be driving our roads.
Those lauding the highway vigilante should reflect on how they'd feel if they were driven off the road by the same guy, who would then take their keys and leave them stranded for, say, driving 101km/h, talking on their cellphone, or whatever the vigilante thinks is dangerous.
Too often we see dangerous and stupid stuff on the roads. But it's no solution to chase the wrong-doers to take their keys and drive off. Our vigilante on the highway could have alerted the police, he could have told the rental company, he could have stayed with the tourist party until help arrived.
But it seems his anger and pigheadedness got the better of him. That's always a danger on the road.
The police know who the vigilante is. They should charge him too.
Surely it's an offence to strand people in such fashion?
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