This anti-distraction hoarding has proved to be a
distraction. Photo by Jim Sullivan.
There's always something to pester the motorist about and
the many bureaucracies which govern the highways do their bit
by plastering hoardings along the main roads. Slow down! Take a
Break! Watch for Ice! There's even an offer of a free coffee if
you stop at the next wayside cafe. None offering a free
Speight's at the next pub, but that would perhaps be sending
quite the wrong message.
The hoardings are put up with the very best of intentions and
no doubt keep us safer and at the very least provide a little
reading matter on boring stretches like the straight flat
bits on the Canterbury Plains.
A recent campaign aims to get motorists to concentrate on the
job of driving and to avoid the myriad distractions which can
interfere with safe motoring.
Back-seat drivers and fractious children should be left at
home but the boffins can't say that, so they have steered
clear of fomenting family feuds in their advertising.
Instead, the ''anti-distraction'' hoardings have pictures of
drivers steering with one hand while the other holds a
hamburger about the size of a small house (a health risk,
even if you do not crash), cellphones (apparently a source of
brain damage, even if you do not crash) and other
paraphernalia, like GPS systems which will take you directly
to the edge of a steep canyon on the Skippers road when you
had quite carefully keyed in the Southern Cross Hotel,
Dunedin. I think there's even a hoarding with what looks like
a 45-inch television screen in the front seat, but maybe that
is just the latest mobile phone.
However, I am such a timid driver there is nothing I can
think of which would take my eyes off the road ahead, except
perhaps for the sight of elephants making love on the North
Ground or a group of naked women performing a haka in front
of Toitu but such a display is not listed among the museum's
attractions. Not yet, anyway.
But in the absence of amorous elephants and an unclad kamate
chorus I have discovered another distraction I can plead
guilty to. That is trying to read a road map while driving.
Most of us have done it and many of us have perhaps had some
near misses as a result.
The road safety people are on the case, though, and their
''anti-distraction'' campaign includes a hoarding showing a
driver so engrossed in her road map she is about to leave the
If you have not seen the hoarding, there is one on Highway 87
near Lee Stream (see today's photograph). I have noticed it a
couple of times recently and assumed the road map they are
showing will be the area around the Bombay Hills or perhaps
the roads around Kaikohe. Such is usually the way of national
media types. A real-estate ad for a nationwide firm will
inevitably show shots of Auckland suburbs with Rangitoto in
the background or a group of smiling bank tellers ready to
serve you at your ''local'' branch will quite probably be the
staff of the Ponsonby branch and so reflect the cultural
diversity of that place. They certainly will not look like a
group of Dunedin bankers. Just like the national firm who a
few years ago wanted to promote provincial rugby by taking
out a large advertisement in this newspaper.
''Join the crowd at Carisbrook!'' ran the slogan underneath
an illustration of a rugby-watching crowd, about half of whom
where Maori, and almost all of whom were wearing scarves and
beanies with Waikato colours. To the advertising whizz-kids
in Auckland a rugby crowd is simply a rugby crowd. At least
the frenzied spectators were not wearing Manchester United
colours!But the road safety advertising people are made of
better stuff as I discovered on my last trip from Middlemarch
As I approached the road map hoarding I decided to slow down
and have a closer look at what I was sure would be the Bombay
Hills map. But, wonder of wonders! The picture was a map of
the very road on which I was travelling! In all its glory
Highway 87 stretched before me from Outram to Kyeburn and all
the places in between and on either side. It not only
confirmed I was on the right road for Dunedin but also
restored my faith in the advertising industry. Wouldn't it be
great if they use that Otago map on the Bombay Hills
hoarding?By now my car was almost at a standstill and it was
only quick thinking by the four motorists behind me which
avoided an ugly nose-to-tail pile up.
As their brakes screeched and their profanities filled the
once-calm country air I realised that if these
anti-distraction hoardings are to be any use at all then
perhaps they shouldn't be so damn distracting!
- Jim Sullivan is a Dunedin writer and