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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Pushing my buttons

Most riders who have a well-honed sense of self-preservation are situationally aware, whether it be road conditions which present potential risk or the actions of other road users.   Something as simple as noticing whether a car driver fails to hold a safe line on a twisty road with poor sight lines, or is fiddling about with something inside the car are all subtle hints to stay well clear.  Unfortunately, we all know that there are plenty of both motorcycle riders and car drivers with poor standards which put other road users at risk.

Being trained in Police Motorcycle Roadcraft has unquestionably raised the standard of situational awareness and consequential actions to mitigate risk from my past mediocre levels but it can be a double-edged sword too!  The training, particularly as an IAM Observer (instructor) means that I never switch off as it's so ingrained.  No apologies for that as it's what keeps us safe.  However, at a personal level, there can be a potential downside.  On social rides, I've had competent non-IAM riders say they prefer me to be up front because they think I'll be formally judging them if I'm down the back.  That's not actually true but it's perceptions that count which is why you don't find IAM members advertising the fact in social settings unless it comes up directly.

Moving on to the main point of this post, it's rather a rhetorical question but at what stage do you take action of some form when you see poor driving which may endanger others?  Where's the line between just shaking your head when you see some dumb driving or riding and doing something about it?  It's something I struggle with, partially because of the ego-free mantra of IAM NZ membership and the connotations of not wanting to be seen as self-righteous.  A couple of years ago, we followed a tourist camper van that was periodically weaving all over the road.  As cops in our area are thin on the ground, we rang the van hire company.  It turned out that the occupants had arrived from the UK just a few hours previously and were clearly jet-lagged.  Fortunately, the hire company had a mobile phone contact for them and got in touch pretty much straight away to sort it out.

Something like the scenario above doesn't take much thinking about but fellow blogger Bandit Rider (Andrew) has just mentioned an encounter with an aggressive SUV driver on a recent ride HERE .  That happened to me two weeks ago so thought I'd share it.

I was driving the car up our twisty coast road and caught up with an Audi 4x4 that was waiting to pass another vehicle.  It was clear that the driver was impatient as it was tailgating the vehicle in front.  The other vehicle pulled over soon after and I followed the Audi which proceeded to cut every corner, including ones which were blind.  I was upset as much as annoyed because he appeared to have his family with him.  Friday afternoon and had probably knocked off work early and was in a hurry, heading for one of many holiday homes on our peninsula.

The tipping point for me came after he exited an obscured corner still partially on the wrong side of the road with something coming the other way.  It wasn't a particularly close shave as the other vehicle had time to brake and move closer to the edge of the road but that was sheer good fortune.  However, what got up my nose was that the Audi driver clearly learned nothing from the event and continued to drive in the same manner.  That was when my conscience kicked in and I took a few of photos of his driving.  One of them is shown below.  For info, we drive on the left in NZ!

Accident waiting to happen

The corner is a tight, heavily-obscured left-hander.  The driver moves to the right hand lane to "straighten out" the corner and note that his brake lights are on.  He repeated this on every LH corner and cut across the centre line on right-handers.  What if a bike or car that was travelling at a reasonable pace was coming in the opposite direction at just the wrong time?

Although there is a *555 phone number to report bad driving, I chose to send the details directly to a senior highway patrol officer I knew professionally for comment.  To cut a long story short, he contacted the driver and had what might be described as a constructive but robust discussion, followed up with a warning letter and a copy of the photo above.  In this instance, I'd like to think that a constructive approach where the driver feels perhaps less resentful than when simply receiving a fine and demerit points may have been quite effective but we can never be certain.

This brings us back to the start point......  how do we decide whether actually do something ourselves about a situation we witness or do we just remark on it and do nothing?  I haven't got an easy answer for that and would love to hear from other people who have wrestled with similar situations.

19 comments:

  1. Oh yeah, I never mentioned the Surf coming towards me with a wheel in my lane - reasonably common occurrence on Vinegar Hill - narrow, not a lot of traffic...

    I now have a dash cam in my car. Have captured some interesting behaviours but not done anything with it yet. I bought it after nearly hitting a cyclist who decided to cross into my path so he could pass another bike. He never looked behind and I would have killed him. The camera wouldn't do much for my conscience but might keep me out of the slammer...

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  2. Hi Andrew,
    Sometimes, it's country types who don't seem to expect traffic on their patch and signaling seems to be an optional extra too - a common problem on our last ride round East Cape!

    Good idea with a dash cam, a friend has just made good use of one when he was T-boned in Auckland. Very clear who was at fault. It's probable that one reason I decided to report it is that I see behaviours of the type described above virtually every time I travel down the coast road and get absolutely sick of it.

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  3. Geoff, about 18 months ago I had a word to a young red P plate car driver (licence less than 12 months) who missed two consecutive red traffic lights turning to green (ie. he remained stationary for the whole duration of the green light) and I could see that he had his cell phone on his lap and was texting. At the next set of lights I spoke to him calmly and suggested he would lose his licence or cause an accident. At first he couldn't hear me as he has his music turned up so loudly! Anyway, he took it well and wasn't a smart arse about it. However, there are so many Ice affected, aggressive people on the roads now I probably wouldn't risk their aggression or retaliation by actually speaking to a dangerous driver. If I witnessed some really dangerous behaviours such a driving the wrong way on a divided highway (occurs at the rate of approx one per day on the freeway between Melb and Geelong), I would ring the police. I think that a dash cam is a good investment and will get one soon.

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    1. Good for you Jules! Impressed that you kept calm as that would have made a huge difference with respect to how the message was received. You're right on the money about the impact of drugs as well as drink. I witnessed an event where a driver who was in the wrong lost it big time when someone pointed out the error of his ways - very politely I may add. I'm pretty sure the extreme reaction was symptomatic of a meth user or similar.

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  4. Good on you Geoff. He clearly needed a rocket.
    About 10 years ago I had a car abruptly pull out onto the road in front of my family and I. Initially I thought " what a selfish dick" but it quickly became apparent that the driver was either drunk or under the influence of something in the middle of the day. We followed for a short while, watching in horror as he almost had several head on crashes. I rang the police and reported him. They asked me to follow at a safe distance and let them know where he went. He eventually pulled(crashed) into the front yard of a house(his house apparently) and the police pounced on him as he exited the car. He became aggressive and they had to pepper spray him to subdue him. The police asked me to make a statement for when they got to court and that was the last I heard of the matter.
    My point, I guess, was that despite not wanting to get involved or be self righteous, I think we may have saved someone's life by making that call. He didn't kill anyone that day, but he probably would have eventually.

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    1. Hi Dave and thanks for the post. Wow, good on you for getting involved as that could have had horrendous consequences. Hell of an ending to the event tomorrow! Despite the event I described not having the drama and outcome of yours, I feel happier about taking a stand as the potential outcome could have been equally as bad. Thanks for that mate!

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  5. Good post Geoff. I think we've all run into drivers like this. The biggest thing we see is drivers on their cell phones. It is a violation, but they do it anyway. What could be so damn important that you can't wait until you pull over?

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  6. Thanks Brandy! Same with cell phones in NZ - see it on an almost daily basis. A few tradesmen in our village are particularly guilty when driving their vans. It's not as if a hands-free kit or Bluetooth is either expensive or rare, is it? The police have periodic crack-downs but like everywhere else, cops are woefully under-resourced.

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  7. Geoff
    Coincidentally,Going viral here is a road rage incident involving a BBC personality
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37223235
    I doubt whether the Police are interested in pursuing a case, too much paperwork, except of course if it's a biker having fun.

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    1. Hi Nikos,
      Cyclists vs vehicles seems to be a problem everywhere. I cycle too so can see the problem from both sides but assuming that most cyclists also drive, why do some of them behave so badly, especially when there's several together? I'm by no means implying that Jeremy Vine was in the wrong in the instance you cite!

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    2. As a cyclist myself I find others a bloody nuisance! Here on the Cheshire plain, we are inundated by groups of men in Lycra who delight in buzzing me at any opportunity on my modest trail bicycle as I'm not wearing Lycra and am quite slow. One day I will collide with one....

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  8. Good on you Geoff for actually doing something, I know many wouldn't. Perhaps the driver may change their ways you never know. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

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  9. Cheers Steve,
    I wouldn't make a habit of it but this guy clearly hadn't learned from his close encounter. It doesn't take much imagination to see the mess if a bike came the other way at just the wrong time.

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  10. A good entry there Geoff. This sort of thing really winds me up and seeing you do something about it makes me smile. Good for you. Incidentally I'm having fun on my Moto Guzzi that I brought out here to Sydney. Not long now before I'm back to being based in Auckland during the week though.

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  11. Hi Lee,
    I see it all the time up the coast road but this muppet didn't learn after the close shave, that's what pissed me off. Have been following your progress on the Guzzi - don't know how you do it! In for a refit, I take it?

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    1. Oh, and having police in IAM is a good thing :-)

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  12. Greetings Geoff from sunny South Africa, I actually didn't realise you were back in the blogosphere until I came across your name commenting on another blog. Anyway an interesting read there and well done for doing something about it, I have driven that Coromandel road and I know how dangerous an idiot like that can be.

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  13. Hi Andrew, great to hear from you!! My posting is pretty patchy to say the least!

    Thanks for the comment. Mussel harvesting is in full swing and It would be easy for that clown to park himself in the front grille of one of the big mussel trucks which use that road!

    Take good care of yourself!

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