Untangling the various paths drivers take to an accident

By David Thomson on Sun, 12 Mar 2017

My goodness, we do seem to enjoy a good crash: on the day I sat down to pen this weekend's editorial, car crashes featured prominently in the opening pages of the Otago Daily Times; a three-car shunt outside the Forbury Rd Four Square on the cover, and then on page four both a roll-over on Earls Rd and a crash that ended with a car ploughing into the VTNZ building on Teviot St.

As if South Dunedin wasn't serving up enough vehicular carnage for my breakfast read of the paper, these three stories, each with a photo, were supplemented by a brief update on a fatal accident in Mid-Canterbury over the weekend, and another on the hunt for the source of a photo posted on social media of a motorcyclist travelling at an unreasonably high speed in the North Island.

Monday's paper also included coverage, albeit briefer, of crashes in three different places, along with a letter on wayward cyclists, and a query about the accident rates of Kiwis and Aussies when driving overseas.

I can't help answer the query, but when comparing the factors that contribute to accidents on our roads, it is interesting to consider the differences in those that contribute to New Zealand rather than overseas drivers having accidents on our roads. According to a 2015 Ministry of Transport Analysis, simple loss of control, failing to give way or stop, keeping too far left and tiredness are more common contributing factors to overseas driver accidents. Conversely, inattention (or attention being diverted), following too close and alcohol/ drugs are more common contributors to New Zealand driver accidents.

While I am pretty sure it was local drivers whose motoring mishaps dominated Tuesday's ODT, crashes - some of them fatal - and near-misses involving overseas drivers have been grabbing the headlines of late, too.

This is hardly surprising as the period November through March is the peak time for overseas tourist visits, and thus for overseas tourist crashes. This is especially so in the lower South Island, where tourist drivers account for a far higher proportion of accidents than in much of the North Island.

Given all of this, and the numerous examples of stupid or inattentive driving I witness almost every day, I was very pleased on Tuesday afternoon to learn that my son and a number of his recently licensed schoolmates had successfully completed the AA defensive driving course I referred to in an editorial a few weeks back.

When asked what the best thing about completing the course was, my son's response was: ‘‘it gets you six months off your time on a restricted licence.''
I, like most parents, would beg to differ; the best thing about one's son (or daughter) completing a defensive driving course is that it is proven to reduce his chances of being involved in a car crash, either self-inflicted, or otherwise, in those dangerous early years as a licensed driver.

David Thomson