Everyone else is doing it so…

Almost every day I have to commute on New Zealand’s state highway with a at a speed that never reaches the maximum open road speed, and now that speed is even lower as there are safety improvements being made.

There is 30kph signs in the zones that work is being undertaken. These speed limits are to be adhered to for the safety of the site and are in place in one area where there isn’t actually any workers. The temptation to go beyond that limit to say 50kph is too much for just about all the drivers I follow.

I’ve decided to literally drop my speed accordingly and watch the car in front disappear and the cars behind close right up. Yesterday for the first time ever the driver behind tooted for me to speed up. Shocking.

The reasons I’m sticking to the rigid rules is not because I think they are necessarily appropriate (50kph in the zone is probably more appropriate) but because recently there was an announcement that the police would ticket drivers one kilometre over the limit. Also, sometimes there is workers on site and there is no way I’m looking to put them at risk of getting hit. Also, we’ve been teaching one of our children how to drive and what to do, which has caused us to focus on our own driving habits. One can’t really tell junior to slow down when he’s seen us exceed the limit in the same spot earlier in the day.

Back to my observations of other driver behaviour. I’ve hardly ever come across any other car at the speed limit. Zip, zero, nada. Not until they are pretty much right on top of the work area. In my rear view mirror, I’ve gathered rather a huge line up of followers and those SUV drivers get really close to push me along. Following the rules is not easy!

Since the weekend though, things have been different. Many more cars are a lot closer to the limit. Is this because of some sudden change in driver behaviour due to safety concerns? No. I suspect that the construction firm had a word to the local constabulary as the police pinged a number of drivers for speeding in the construction zone.

Just a note on the work being undertaken. It has nothing to do with driver safety as it is all about cycle lanes. Indeed, the last time such a significant “safety improvement” occurred was in the mid nineties when the speed limit was lowered from 100kph to 80kph. Which is why most days, I’m on a highway that never reaches the open road speed limit. For quite some time everyone drove at 100kph, until the cops arrived. Safety first I suppose and signs are cheaper than straightening out that negative camber bend that pushes drivers either off the road or into oncoming traffic.

So we know why I’m driving to the speed limited however we don’t really know why everyone else wants to drive 20kph over the limit. My guess is that the drivers are used to the road and, everyone else is doing it so I can too. The peer pressure if you like. Oddly, some of the same people would be tut-tutting over someone getting behind them on the open road and pushing them to do 110kph.

Everyone else is doing it so it must be OK. We’ve seen that argument here with our recent debate about legalising cannabis. Some say that up to 80% of New Zealanders have tried cannabis and a significant proportion use it regularly, therefore, seeing as it’s already being used in society then we may as well make it legal. A lot of people drive between 100 and 110kph on our highway however I can’t see our authorities taking “everyone else is doing it” as a good excuse to avoid a ticket.

I’ll be on the road again today, continuing to diligently adhere to the speed limit, as a good citizen should, for the greater good. While my fellow citizens go completely bananas in my rear view mirror. Still, it could be worse: earlier this year our local council imposed a 10kph speed limit on the high street. That was a bit tricky to stick to.

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