Driving well or pissing people off? Or both?

It's a situation I'm in at least once a week. Sometimes several times each week.

And the situation I'm talking about it this:

On the way to The Kid's preschool, about a 15-minute drive away from home, there is a bridge under construction at the moment and so only one lane of traffic can get through at a time. Traffic lights let through about 10 seconds worth of cars, then pause the flow from one end - then cars from the other direction can get their 10 seconds worth of green light to get through, and so on, and so on.

As cars get through that construction area in a tight bunch, usually about 8-9 cars at once, then as soon as we enter from a 30-kilometre speed zone into a 100-kilometre speed zone, I leave a wide gap between the car in front of me and us. I'm not stupid: if there's a bunch of cars on the highway in front of me, then at a speed of 100 kilometres per hour, if someone breaks suddenly, I am going to need that space to break safely.

But try saying that to the a$$hole drivers behind me. Each week I'll watch as someone behind me accelerates past me at a speed of about 120 km/h (if I'm doing 90-100 km/h then they'll need to do quite a lot more than I am to get past me) and then - surprise! - they'll get stuck in that flow of cars just like me. And now that they're there, I will have to slow down a little, create a gap between ourselves and the a$$hole driver in front of us, and we'll continue driving.

And so often as we approach the village where my son goes to preschool, that car that has sped past us with an excessive speed, will still be right in front of us, about 3 seconds ahead. And so often I look at them and think, so was that speedy overtaking really worth it for getting to your destination 3 seconds earlier???

I've been trained to the tune of eco-driving which, in a nutshell, means a driving style where I use steady speeds, limited breaking, wide gaps in front of me and as a result spend less fuel and in theory, make overall traffic faster.

But I do keep having to wonder if the effort's worth it.

I find New Zealand drivers, as a whole, exceptionally impatient. I've discussed this with some other people who are originally from northern Europe, usually Dutch, German, Norwegian etc, and it's a sentiment shared by a lot of people that on New Zealand roads, there is a lot of stop-speed-stop-speed sort of behaviour, which is both consuming on fuel and makes traffic more hectic in general.

I seem to be very good at "pissing people off" with my eco-driving. This morning, for example, I got honked at for keeping a gap in front of me in 8 am stop-go traffic on Bougham street, one of Christchurch's main thoroughfares, and I have to admit that I... ended up showing my middle finger to that driver as, a gap or not, I was not getting anywhere in that kind of traffic, and neither was he. I wondered if he knew that apart from those 3 seconds of space in front of my car, the only real difference between the cars in front of me and me was the fact that they were constantly accelerating-breaking-accelerating-breaking and I was... driving steadily. Slowly, but steadily. In that same traffic flow.

Or those cars speeding past me on the highway on my way to preschool: I've now had two occasions where, as they've been speeding past, they've had to swing back into lane quickly (once there was a car pulling out in the opposite direction, and once a tractor which this speeding car either didn't see or didn't care about as they started accelerating past me) to which I've had to swerve to avoid hitting them. And I've thought: does my style of driving, though in general regarded safer and more economic, but in my personal case sometimes more dangerous as a result, make it worth it?

I don't know. I honestly don't know.

Edited to add: today a driver stopped his car next to mine and screamed at me. We were driving out of that bridge construction area and I was, I think, fifth car in line, but I could see that the car in the very front was a slow truck and so I decided to pull over, let the remaining three cars behind me pass, and then drive behind them rather than in the middle of that slow line. And as I was parked on the side of the road, waiting for them to pass, the last car stopped next to me, rolled down its window and screamed at me. And I was, like, wtf?

It was an old, fat guy. And as he stopped screaming, continued driving and I then continued driving behind him, at the speed of about 85 km/h - the speed that the truck in the very front was going with - I wondered if he realised that it wasn't me keeping the traffic slow. All I did was pull over and let them past. I was not. his. problem.

And as we got to the village and he parked his car very close to where I was going to park, I briefly considered going up to him and asking what the heck was he screaming at me for, but I decided against it. I figured, he might be effin' stressed over something or just an a$$hole of a person in general, so maybe if he was tense enough to stop and scream at me on the highway, maybe it was better if he weren't approached full stop, and I did have my two kids in the car.

But still I am sitting here and thinking, "WTF?!"

3 comments:

  1. I would love to leave loong-loooooong comment about Australian driving as it pisses me off on daily basis and it looks NZ and Australia have lots in common. Mostly caused by not knowing and following the rules. For example in Australia you don't need to go to driving school, your parent, friend or who ever can be your driving instructor. People tend to forget the rules and when I asked about roundabouts, nobody seemed to know for sure when you need indicate...

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  2. I have had so many dangerous situations which were not caused by me. When I let pedestrians cross road/ traffic Australian drivers very often beep to me or show me middle finger. I get really annoyed and ready to follow rude car to explain road rules ☺️

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  3. I learned to drive here and despite that I leave a good gap between the car in front and mine, I also stick to the speed limit (most of the time) and I try not to make sudden stops and starts. My car is getting on in age, she was made in 1992 so anything I can do to improve her fuel efficiency I will do, don't have to worry about aircon, that's not worked for the last 6 or more years.
    I get people who get annoyed with me for stopping to let other people in, I just ignore them, not my problem that they weren't brought up to be courteous.

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