LINE ONE: Feb 05

Engineering road kill
They reckon that the Aussies will gamble on two flies crawling up a wall, which may very well be true, but equally, when it comes to not only the extraordinary amount of money we Kiwis venture on all known forms of gambling, little appears to beat the appalling gamble that each and every one of ustakeswhen we venture forth on this nation’s roads.
Our family, this Christmas past, decided to repair to the Winterless North, where, based at Whangarei and seeing that the weather required more the donning of gummies and a parka rather than Bikinis or Speedos, we decided, instead of lazing on the beach to explore some of the places around the North that we either hadn’t seen before or hadn’t seen for years. This, quite naturally involved travelling several thousand Ks which I am very happy to report were essentially covered, without any drama at all, on roads that by NZ standards are pretty good, and shared by other motorists who appeared to be driving safely and well. All of which, to be frank, I found to be quite surprising, in that despite there being at all times during these trips a large number of vehicles on the road, Plod, apart from the occasional sighting in and around Whangarei itself, appeared to have gone completely AWOL.
No coppers to be seen, at any time, anywhere, well that is to be accurate, apart from a couple of very genial Plods at the Cape Reinga car park, presumably there to make sure tourists’ cars weren’t pinched or broken into, nary a striped Commodore or Falcon was to be seen anywhere or at any time. Indeed, apart from the obligatory Mitsubishi L300 road-side photo/cash register collection device spotted on the way home, naturally on a wide, straight bit of highway just south of Whangarei, that, appeared to be it when it came to our travels being made all the safer by the now uniformed inheritors of the mantle once worn so proudly by the Highwaymen of yore.

Have the Plods already hit Harry’s budget for roadside Taxation for this year I wondered? Is the Far North a no-go zone for those otherwise so very active in the rattling of the LTSA’s collection boxes most other places? Has a major outbreak of rape and pillage in otherwise less civilised parts of this country required urgent reinforcement leading to a denudation of the North’s usual traffic enforcement presence? Well apart from taking note of this odd phenomenon who really cares, suffice it to say that our extensive travels were most definitely enhanced by their absence, in that, as reported, apart from a few people, probably clinically blind, who persist in driving at a snail’s pace on the open highway, it would be very hard to fault the overall behaviour of the folk, who these Christmas holidays drove hither and yon north of Whangarei.
Which brings us, sadly, to other areas not too far from home base here in Auckland, that coppers or no coppers, no sane person should ever frequently travel should they wish eventually to achieve a statistically normal life span. Roads, so badly engineered and therefore inherently dangerous that in my opinion those responsible for their design, construction and indeed continuing use should be charged, tried and very probably convicted for manslaughter. Sections of this nation’s busy highways, that were OSH’s rules to be applicable, would quickly lead to the need of a brand new prison to be built simply to accommodate the people so plainly responsible for the unnecessary deaths on these roads of so many of their fellow citizens. I just cannot believe that this criminal negligence and clear culpability for engineered road kill is so lightly passed over by the people of this country who, years back let alone now, should be demanding heads on a plate of those so clearly responsible for the hundreds of completely unnecessary deaths and injuries caused. That, equally, we passively allow the inference, by these criminally incompetent nitwits, that the main reason these several roads/killing grounds are so deadly is all the fault of the motorists involved, and all that is required is to slow down, and of course to not partake of the demon drink! That is not to say of course that the authorities have not taken some steps, (however useless and ineffectual) to try to reduce this ongoing carnage. Hell yes, warning signs abound as to the dangers ahead, indeed to the point were anyone silly enough to try to read all of the notices erected you could almost guarantee running off the road as you did so. Naturally this has proven to be, whilst completely ineffectual, very cheap to implement, as indeed has also been the stationing of serried rows of speed capturing devices that whilst raising revenue no doubt, has done precisely nothing to reduce the butcher’s bill, nor in any other way has it altered the plain fact that these roads are simply engineered to kill people, ordinary folk who as ordinary people do, occasionally make a small error in their driving, just that if this momentary lapse occurs say at Maramarua, then the odds most definitely are that you will die.
The ever predictable response to the latest bodies being cut out of yet another car wreck? Gosh, we are looking at this section of highway and who knows sometime around the year 2008 we think that we might just have the problem sorted out! In the meantime do try to drive more carefully, and remember to wear your seat belt meantime! Good God, can you imagine what would happen if these Pratts were in charge of our health system should there be a major epidemic break out. Yes, we know what the disease is and yes we promise to start distributing the vaccine in around four years time. Would any of these ‘decision makers’ be able to safely show their faces in public? Of course not, in sheer fear of the consequences of such a criminal neglect of their paid duties they would have the required medications out there and being distributed as a matter of absolute priority. Roads that kill people in bulk numbers? Money, men and machinery in sufficient amounts, with anyone other than complete incompetents in charge, then these roads could all be re-engineered and safe within six months, and dare I say that were a senior Cabinet Minister’s family to be wiped out on one of these death strips this would more than likely happen, but perish the thought, wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Just think about this state of affairs for a moment. We all know, without a shadow of doubt, that over the announced four years that it apparently will take to sort out Maramarua’s death zone, dozens and dozens of completely innocent people are guaranteed to needlessly die. Yet in many respects and in many ways we too are guilty of just sitting back and passively watching these people die. Perhaps it’s an indication of our obsessive gambling instincts, like, shame about that young family that’s just got wiped out, luck of the draw I suppose! Wrong place, wrong time, dangerous bit of road that one wonders if ‘They’ are ever going to fix? Which attitude, in my opinion, and don’t tell me that this attitude is not a common one, is precisely why the authorities are in no hurry at all to earmark the money necessary, after all why should they? Where is the public demand, the need to react to politicians scared out of their wits by an enraged public who sees all of these largely preventable deaths as being directly their fault? No, now as in the past, the Government and its various authoritative minions are quite safe in the knowledge that the money that should immediately be spent to stop all of these deaths, can be saved and gosh, perhaps even be spent on bribing our way back into office at the next election. After all, as previously observed, where is the public clamour for some action here?
Why even the media is now so accustomed to this carnage, that whilst a few Kiwis overseas that might come to grief becomes headline news, people being bumped off in bulk numbers locally, figures not much more than simply becoming a part of the cricket score like figures of this month’s road toll. Even the siren song of the LTSA concentrating as it ever does on the sins of the motorist re the perils of drink and speed carefully ignores the blindingly clear facts that bad roads are killing people, although one could unkindly observe here that they appear to be in the job of collecting money rather than in its spending on real road safety.
And, so finally, the point that I really would like to make. If anyone of us can tear ourselves away from the continual barrage of bulldust that largely provides most of the content of our local media’s news stories, let us stop and consider, just for one moment, the absolute fact that a large number of our fellow citizens right here in this country, are going to die, not might, but in fact you can absolutely guarantee will, and furthermore in clearly identifiable sections of our highway system, and that if we, that’s WE in capital letters, don’t demand, with political menaces if necessary, an immediate solution, then like it or not, then we, each and everyone of us must share the guilt that in a truly caring society should never be allowed to exist.
By all means continue to consider the plight and the woes of the world in general, but please don’t lose sight of what’s happening, which is so easily reversible, right under our very noses. Cheers.