Driving us to despair

Heavy rain, and you’re driving carefully on a wet road aware of how slippery the white lines and manhole covers can be.

A heart-stopping revving of an engine and a car hurtles past on the wrong side of the road and into the murk, its occupants giving you the eye, too impatient to wait for the passing lane only a kilometre further on.

Thick fog at sunrise. Most people taking it cautiously, headlights dipped. You can see no more than a couple of power poles ahead. But still there’s drivers who haven’t bothered to switch on their lights because it is technically now daytime.

Imbeciles behind the wheel. They have always been around. In New Zealand, the traditionally young age at which people can drive before they have even left school has added a deal of inexperience and recklessness to our highways.

So why do people take such risks? Are they in that much of a rush as to cancel all logical thought? The overtakers above probably arrived at their destination half a minute or so earlier; those not using their headlights in the fog were probably patting themselves on the back for saving electricity.

There used to be a road policing jingle encouraging people to "drive to the conditions". Unfortunately, that seems to have been absorbed by many as, if the weather and road conditions are atrocious, drive atrociously.

Of course, we all think we are fantastic drivers — that it is always someone else who has an empty space where their brain should be.

There can be little doubt something is going wrong with the policing of our roads and the driving-licence system. Combine those flaws with the impulsive rashness of youth, and groups of people who think they are invincible and get a thrill from driving dangerously, and it is hardly a surprise there are tragic consequences.

Take this week, for example. In the past few days we have had a pathetic apology to Dunedin residents from a bunch of "car enthusiasts" who feel they have to prove their worth by driving like morons, and at the same time heart-wrenching scenes in a Timaru courtroom following the deaths of five teens in an entirely avoidable speed and alcohol-related crash in August last year.

What does it take for the neurons in the brains of some of these people to fire strongly enough so they can understand that link?

Last weekend, three groups of "car enthusiasts" — they used to be called boy- or girl- racers but political correctness has reached its tendrils even into this sphere — decided to use Dunedin for their pitiful larks.

About 500 cars were driven to Forsyth Barr Stadium car park, where some drivers raced, skidded and "performed" burnouts. Similar stunts took place on a smaller scale at Forbury Park.

Three car clubs were involved — the Reckless Deciples (sic), whose members could do with some spelling lessons, the Midnight Crawlers, and the Fatal Few. The Crawlers issued an apology of sorts this week, saying they had had good intentions, wanting to promote pro-social behaviour, but that things got out of hand.

Really? Now that is a shock. What do you expect at such lawless gatherings? And where were the police?

Meanwhile, on Wednesday in the High Court at Timaru, 19-year-old Tyreese Fleming was sentenced to two and a-half years in prison for driving five teenage boys to their deaths while in breach of his restricted licence.

Expert testimony estimates the car he was driving hit a large concrete power pole at between 107kmh and 115kmh. The Nissan Bluebird split in half and all the passengers, aged 15 and 16, were killed instantly.

Five young lives gone in a flash. And many dozens of lives ruined forever, including family and friends, and Fleming’s too.

Join the dots between hooning and dying. The police need to seriously apply the brake to such car "enthusiasm" to save lives. Quite how they do that may not be so easy.

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