Last month, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a week off and ride my motorbike from Paihia to Tuatapere with a group of friends. By most standards, it was a relatively sedate tour with no more than 500kms travelled per day. A few of the riders with us ride in the annual “1,000 miler” a motorbike orienteering exercise of 1600kms in 24 hours.

It was whilst following one of these “1,000 miler” riders on the second day of our trip that I started to get worried. We were out on Highway 22, a twisty road near Raglan and the rider, who we’ll call “Ben” seemed to misjudge a corner and drifted over the centreline on a left hand corner. 15 mins later, he did the same again, except this time he ran so wide, he was heading for the verge on the opposite side. I looked up to see an oncoming SUV only one corner away and blind to the motorbike in her lane. Somehow, Ben got his bike back on the right side of the road before the SUV appeared and on we travelled.

Highway 22 still has a number of one lane bridges, and the riders ahead had stopped for a car on the bridge. Ben, still trying to catch the group after the excursions across the road, came flying round the corner, took a moment to register the stopped bikes, hit the brakes, veered round the backmarkers, into the path of the oncoming car, narrowly missed their front wing and skidded to a halt at the front of the queue. As soon as the road was clear, he led the group across the bridge.

At an NZTA meeting in Hamilton last week, CVIU went over some of the stats I have been referring to in my last couple of articles, and added some detail to the numbers.

The top 4 most common infringement notices issued by CVIU in 2015:

  • Log books
  • Weight
  • RUC
  • Speed

And when it comes to the 49% of truck crashes that had a truck fault, or driver fault as the primary cause, these related to:

  • Speed, especially on corners
  • Failing to keep left (crossing the centreline)
  • Too far left or too far right in the lane

This last one, CVIU explained that this was often an indicator of fatigue and that there was a correlation between these cases and log books being the number 1 infringement. Too many drivers are driving tired. You’ll see and hear NZTA safety adverts over the next few weeks relating to this one. If you’re feeling tired, take a power nap.

So, back to Ben. When we stopped for lunch, he apologised to me “for holding [me] up as he is a bit of a slow rider.” Not normally known for my diplomacy, I knew I had to say something, and what I said was that I would rather we both rode 5-10km/h slower than spend the afternoon picking up the pieces. (Hold breath, wait for reaction…) “Perhaps you’re right,” he said, “maybe my reactions aren’t what they were 20 years ago.” (cue lots of relief at not upsetting a friend). At the bar that night, Ben came over to tell me he’d enjoyed the afternoon so much more at a slightly slower speed. He emailed me a few days after the end of the trip to repeat the sentiment and to thank me.

If you’re concerned about a driver, a mate, a family member. Say something. They might thank you for it.

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