Warning. The following contains Violence, Horror, Squirrels and Road safety.
I have recently discovered how Kiwis’ managed to incorporate capital punishment with road safety. Whilst driving along State Highway 1, going north toward Blenheim, just before every bend in the road is a sign recommending what speed that particular corner should be taken at. I have come to the decision that those signs are hugely dangerous. When driving back home, a sharp bend in the road is pre-warned of with a sign that shows a curved line of ever increasing severity, depending on the course of the road. Also, a set of black and white chevrons line the side of the road to further highlight the fact that your speed may indeed need adjusting, to avoid running off the road and ending up wrapped around a squirrel’s house. At no point as I proceed around these bends do my eyes leave the tarmac to check the speedometer. In fact; the only time that I do check the speed is when I notice the evil yellow presence of a speed camera, or approaching motorists flash their headlights to signify a police speed trap. Most of the time though, I don’t have a clue what my speed was around any particular bend. As long as I get around in good order, without interrupting Mrs Nutkin’s tea, then all is well.
However, having noticed these signs suggesting the speed I should be going at around the next twist in the motoring tale, I began to wander what my velocity was. To do this meant that, at the apex of the bend, my eyes flashed down to the speedo. Unfortunately, because of the need to operate the steering wheel in order to maneuver, the gauge was obscured. At the next bend I tried again, this time moving my head to see around the obstruction. This took a second longer than just moving my eyes, and when I looked back up I was just in time to see a huge pot-hole vanish under the van before the inevitable bounce. Had I had my eyes on the road I would have been able to avoid it. It turned out that I was about ten kilometers an hour faster than the road sign said I should be doing. How would it be if I just went to the limit suggested? The next bend was coming up and the sign gave me a speed which I slowed down to, and around the corner I went in a nice sedately fashion. I didn’t have to think about it at all, the sign told you the speed, you slowed to that speed and disaster was averted. Wasn’t half boring though, I didn’t feel as if I had any decision to make at all, just sit there and steer. I toyed with the idea of seeing how fast I could go, but soon dismissed this as a one way ticket to winning a Darwin Award. Just then I was overtaken by a BMW of some kind, it was a spot in the distance long before I could work out which model. This got me wondering, how did they come to decide what speed was good for each bend? How did they work it out?
We all know that some cars handle better around corners than others, such as a Lotus Elise or a Classic Mini. Then we have my end of the scale, a lumbering Nissan people carrier van that has a centre of gravity so high it has snow on it, go around any bend too fast and you’ll topple over the crash barrier and snowball down the inevitable ravine at the edge of the road. They must have needed to find something that was mid range, mid priced and along the lines of what the average Kiwi drove at the time. It would have been folly to ask an expert driver to drive around each bend as fast as he could, because if he got it wrong, that would be a waste of talent and future motor racing victories. Far better to use a class of person that was expendable, murderous criminals for example. Simply set the car up in such a way that meant the only thing the convict could do was steer. So they’d set the cruise control before hand and remove the brakes entirely. When everything was set, they’d strap the convict in. The car would then be hurled down the road toward the bend at a hundred miles an hour. The condemned would attempt to steer around the bend, providing valuable information concerning skid analysis, then hurl off the road and into the next life. They could also rig the car to record further crash data, and the body would useful too as a crash test dummy. The next ‘test dummy’ would be strapped in, but the speed would be reduced this time. Carry on in this fashion until at some point the convict manages to steer around the corner. At this point, if it wasn’t raining already, they would flood the road with sprinklers to simulate heavy rain and then try again with the same crim. When one of them managed to steer around the corner at this stage, they’d change the criminal with the expert and find a speed that is good for the rest of us. Then they’d probably knock a few kph off that to cover for the extreme idiots and drunkards out there and mark the result up on the signpost. To restore the beauty of the country side and remove all the mangled wrecks and corpses, those convicted of crimes like burglary and bank robbery would be employed to clean up after wards. The whole scheme covers the major goals of punishment, deterrent, countryside cleanliness and road safety. How else would they have done it? The only problem is when people like me come along and try to work out if all the research they did is actually correct. I think I just see it as an example of the government saying it knows best, I’d rather work it out for myself.
Mini count:- 9, a little rare in the north, maybe?