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Monday, 30 July 2012

Paranoia or are they REALLY out to get you???

I've not been accessing the internet much for the last few days having been away from home on a couple of missions.  On reading a few fellow moto-bloggers websites, there seems to be a common thread where car drivers seem hell-bent on removing fellow road users from existence at a greater frequency than normal.  Maybe there's some sort of celestial alignment causing the problem as it isn't just confined to the Northern Hemisphere! The driving is certainly like the offender's heads are up their Uranus.

Last Thursday, Jennie and I headed off on a business trip 400 km to the south.  The day didn't start well as the distance magically increased overnight to 500 km thanks to a landslip blocking the most direct route.  Going round the long way to get off our Peninsula, a ute (utility... Kiwi and Aussie-speak for a pickup) came out of a side turn in front of us.  We then proceeded to witness some of the most incompetent driving we've seen for a long, long time.  It's appropriate to mention that the ute was emblazoned with the name of the driver's employer - a reasonable-sized company, together with their website address and telephone number so it was hardly inconspicuous.  Oh and another relevant fact....in New Zealand, we drive on the left hand side of the road.

We'd been following the ute for a minute or so when it caught up with another ute towing a trailer down a reasonably long straight.  Inexplicably, the driver held off passing the other vehicle until a few tens of metres before a blind bend at the end of the straight.  Had something appeared coming the other way, the consequences would have been dire.

It turns out that this was no isolated rush of blood to the head. On every bend, blind or not, he cut the corner and on the blind corners - someone coming in the opposite direction would have no chance.  Lazy driving at its worst with terrible potential consequences. We were both horrified and under those circumstances, it's hard not to think about someone you love coming the other way.  With cameras and videos being so compact and easy to use these days, people tend to carry them just like they'd carry a wallet and we're no different.  Makes it much harder for a miscreant to say that a certain event didn't happen.  Jennie blazed off a series of photos at different corners as a record without really knowing what we were going to do with them.  It was pointless calling the police traffic hotline (*555) as there are only a handful of cops patrolling the whole Peninsula and besides, mobile phone coverage is pretty patchy in the area.  After following him for 20 minutes or so, we pulled over for a short stop.

Here are a couple of photos to illustrate just how far the offender was over the centre line on most corners.  If there are any protests from bleeding hearts about his human rights being violated by publishing the photos, tough s*it.  What about the rights of other road users to expect to live through the day?

Insanity personified - we drive on the left

Yet another example of appalling driving

During the trip, we debated what we were going to do.  Shake our heads and do nothing might be an option for a one-off transgression of a minor nature but that was never going to happen with multiple examples of bad driving.  The next option was to send the photos to the police.  We had some reservations about this being the immediate best option. We thought rightly or wrongly that that if the driver entered the justice system, there may well be a heavy fine and possible loss of licence but little else in the way of discretionary powers open to the authorities.  There was a time when I'd have been quite happy for the offender's head to be stuck up on a long pole by the roadside (metaphorically speaking) as an example to others but not any more.  That approach, however satisfying, probably only generates driver resentment and does eff all to prevent it happening again.

We finally decided to send the photos to his employer when we got back from the trip with a short description of events but completely leaving out any outraged demands etc, simply to judge the reaction.  It was late on Friday afternoon when the email got sent via the company website.  Even though it was late, we got a response within half an hour. The reply started with a profound apology, then noted which branch of the company the vehicle was based at and that the matter would be taken up immediately on Monday morning.  In view of the response, we then responded with a possible approach.  The suggestion was for the company to consider as part of any punitive action, mandatory attendance by the driver on an advanced driving course, turning it into a win-win situation.

We have yet to hear about any further action so this whole issue isn't closed yet.  I'll add an update when there's something else to report.  The main reason for posting this incident is that with the technology available to us these days, there are other options available than simply complaining about the poor standards of driving, but doing nothing else.  I guess the death of my best friend 2 decades ago due to another driver crossing the centre line has coloured my views somewhat.  However, joining the IAM last year has opened my eyes to possibly better options in some circumstances than simply using the sometimes heavy hand of the law - let's see how it works out.

As a parting comment, if someone is inclined to ask about the impact on the driver's employment and family etc through not turning a blind eye..... how would it be viewed if that driver's actions had caused grief and suffering to an innocent road user's family?  Damned if I do and damned if I don't - guess that my conscience is pretty clear but it's still a bit of a moral minefield.


Addendum:  A very satisfactory outcome thanks to both the person's company and the employee himself.  I won't go into the details for privacy reasons but totally happy.  I guess it demonstrates that as road users, we don't have to accept poor driving and that we can do something about it.

38 comments:

  1. Great post and good for you, not only for reporting a dangerous driver but also offering a win/win solution to his employer.
    Unfortunately, most incidents involving motorcycles happen so quickly and we rarely carry a recording device to capture such offenses. However, thanks to Bobskoot for hooking me up with some Ram Mounts, video tips and tricks last week, I may carry my GoPro on every ride just in case.

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    1. Thanks Brad,
      Yes, it is much harder on a bike but as a lot of riders carry a GoPro on at least some occasions, it does become a viable option to take it further. I'm certainly not advocating becoming a vigilante, but I guess there's a moral compass in everyone to decide what's might be ok and what's not. Up to now, I haven't done much but just complain.

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  2. Holy Sh$t! What was he doing? What was he thinking? I can only imagine what might have happened if an oncoming road user (bike or otherwise) would have gotten in his way.

    Maybe you saved lives by taking this action. This driver didn't seem to care so why should should one care what consequences he might have to face. He could have killed people. I hope he's sent back to driving school, to learn some rules and road respect.

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    1. Hi Sonja!
      It does make you wonder whether a certain percentage of the motoring public are simply poor drivers or under the influence of other substances, legal or illegal.

      I really hope that everyone gets a win. If his company doesn't come to the party, there aren't too many choices left.

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  3. I guess stringing them up by their nuts is no longer allowed then. Well I see your dilema, its hard to know what to do in these circumstances. I just hope that the guy learns something out of this. It would be good if they forced him into a advanced driver training although I can't see a company doing this.

    Sad to hear about your good friend and it must have been difficult for you to decide a course of action with that in the back of your mind. I think you did the right thing Geoff.

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    1. G'day Steve,
      Unfortunately, I can't see those options in the statutes these days :-).

      Actually, one company which supplies a service to the government in NZ requires all its drivers to pass the IAM membership tests which is really great. Conversely, another company which may well have reduced its insurance premiums by following suit was completely apathetic about it.

      Thanks for the kind thoughts. It has been difficult, still not sure it's the best solution but all you can do in the end is trust your instincts.

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  4. Geoff

    This behaviour is what makes driving in Greece so interesting.

    Take care out there!

    N

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  5. Nikos ol' mate!

    Same for Vietnam, Thailand and a whole bunch of other countries where regard for human life isn't maybe quite as strong! Not keen for it to get accepted here though :-)

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  6. Geoff,
    I first read your comments about this driver on Kiwi Biker and both the bouquets and brickbats that followed. I take my hat off to you for having the courage to put your thoughts and concerns on paper and letting the world have its rant - I guess your asbestos cloak has proved to be invaluable in the last few days! I look at what you have done as critiquing rather than criticising - something I encourage the children I teach to do - and you have offered the driver's employer suggestions which will help improve his driving and, perhaps, the company's other drivers. And more importantly, make our roads a little bit safer for all other road users - whether on two, three, four or more wheels.

    Thank you for your positive actions in this instance.

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    1. Hi Mark!
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. You well know the NZ road conditions and low expectations by the authorities in setting such easy license acquisition tests. My sympathies are with the police in instances like this. They're caught between a rock and a hard place. Fingers crossed for the best possible outcome!

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  7. Good one Geoff. This isn't really "bad driving" (as it may be Mark Webber at the wheel) but bad discipline. The fear of having the police kick your arse in the old days helped people with their discipline. Sadly now with police so thinly spread and those that are around hiding in speed camera vans personal discipline has taken a dive off a cliff right around the world.
    I think you did the right thing in going to his employer. A lot of people don't respect the law any more, but by geez, they are going to listen to the bloke that hands them their paycheque each week. Who knows, he may be a trouble maker that they are looking for a reason to get rid of?

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    1. Hi Dave,
      That might be splitting hairs! He'd certainly broken the law and as he presumably doesn't have Mark Webber's reactions, it probably was "bad driving", haha. Got to agree with police everywhere being spread exceedingly thin.

      Excellent point you make about his employer. The scenario you describe may well be the correct one. If he's such a crap driver, what else is he equally sloppy at?

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  8. Lazy, selfish, incompetent, dangerous ....call it what you like.... but its what puts other people's lives and well-being at risk. I support your actions 100% Geoff.

    I think that we actually have a moral obligation to act in circumstances like this!

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    1. Gidday Jules,

      Thanks mate. Got to agree with you. I guess that the trick will be to exercise some judgement when deciding what's a lapse in judgement (which we all suffer from time to time)and what is clearly ingrained dangerous driving. I think it's pretty clear in this case.

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  9. Shocking driving..photos !!!!! BAN THEM

    And as you point out Geoff , that may lead to a family suffering...death , severe injuries !!

    Andrew

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    1. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for the comments. It will be interesting where this ends up.

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  10. Good for you and Jennie for sending the info to his employer. My first thoughts would be that he was either on his phone or drunk. Doubtful it was a medical emergency.

    It is good that the employer responded so quick, the last thing they want is that type of liability out there. If he is going to drive like an ass it is better he pays the consequences (ie - if he gets fired) than someone else pays with their life.

    I say good job Geoff.

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    1. Cheers Brandy,
      I think police statistics say that any given time, about 20% of motorists are impaired for whatever reason. That's pretty scary and a compelling reason to drive defensively.

      I'll give the employer a few days to work through the issue but if they don't contact me, I'll certainly be contacting them.

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  11. Geoff:

    I think you are right to do what you did. I reported an offender to an employer, but without video evidence and they were going to do "something".

    I also had an aggressive/erratic driver and I followed them to their place of work and made sure they knew I was behind them. Having a GoPro "ready" seems the best option for us

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

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    1. Bob,
      Well good for you! I think that the main thing we can take from all this is that we all have the power to do something about bad driving if we see something which is indefensible. This was my first but you're already down that track so well done indeed.

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  12. Geoff,
    It is outrageous how many examples of poor driving I see on my daily commutes. When I drove on the limited access highways it was even worse. It seems driving has become something people do while doing something else: talking on the phone, eating, shaving, etc.

    Within the last month there have been motorcycles fatalities in accidents resulting from someone turning into the path of another vehicle. Sadly, lapses of judgment happen. More sadly, the culture of driving in the USA seems to encourage these lapses. By the way, I agree with your assessment: What you witnessed certainly doesn't appear to be a lapse, but rather evidence of a pattern.

    Thanks for sharing and it will be interesting to see what happens.
    ~k

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  13. Hi Keith!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Now you come to mention it, I guess that's an international trend linked with life's increasing pressures. I'm certainly not offering that as an excuse as it's so avoidable, especially with decent quality training. Thanks again for the insight - chilling, isn't it?

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  14. You probably no what I think Geoff!

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    1. No "probably" about it Rog! I'll be chasing up his company tomorrow. One of my mates who is a HWP officer based out of Pokeno has apprised me of the penalties which can be imposed and they're not to be taken lightly.

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  15. Geoff

    That was horrifying! Good for you calling the employer, they have the right to know when an employee is driving badly and the resulting action is usually immediate. I had a situation in early July when a woman in a delivery truck cut me off, she turned left in font of me and when I gave her the hat the heck are you doing arm flail, she waved at me. That burned my bacon even more and spurred me to action, rather than call the local constabulary I called the delivery company and had a pleasant chat with the owner. I expressed that I did not want the driver to be I trouble or lose their job, I just wanted them to be more cognizant that motorcycles due to their small size move faster and are closer than they appear to be. Luckily the owner happened to be a rider and said they would have a talk with the driver. Bad driving reflects negatively on companies and should not be tolerated or acceptable. So if anyone is burning your beans over this ignore them, you did the right thing.

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  16. Hi Dar,
    That's an excellent outcome that you managed to negotiate and I hope that I'm as successful as you. A really positive result all round.

    I put the photos up on a local bike forum and most riders were really supportive. One of them took the "nobody was hurt so what's the big deal?" approach but there are morons everywhere. Another said I was following too closely but another member correctly pointed that my close-up photo was a zoomed-in crop of one of the original photos. That was good for a laugh! Thanks for your concern.....

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  17. To conclude this tale, I've just heard from the employee's company. For privacy reasons, I won't disclose details but it's fair to say that that the outcome was a good one for all parties.

    The main thing to draw from this event and ones which the posters have mentioned is that we don't have to put up with poor examples of driving and that with a bit of thought, everyone can get a win out of it (Although the offender might not see it that way immediately!)

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  18. Glad to hear you had a positive outcome from this Geoff. Your posting this has given me the courage to do similar the next time I come across something like it.

    I've just been to a presentation night for work (I work at the blood bank and once a year we treat the donors to a special night as a sign of our appreciation for everything they have given thoughtout the year) and one of our speakers was a guy who was hit by a car veering all over the road the same as your bloke, while riding in the outback miles from anywhere. He was lucky he was found not too long after by another car passing, he had severed a main artery and needed a ton of blood. As it was he lost a leg, but still rides :)

    I couldnt help but think, when I read about your outcome that you quite likely have helped save someone else from such a traumatic experience.

    Good on ya mate!!!

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    1. Thanks for the inspirational reply Brenda! That's a fantastic example to us all of why we should step up when we see really bad driving. Thanks so much for posting!

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  19. Geoff, Tried that on many occasions but despite the rash of UK "dob your neighbour" initiatives from the Govt, dangerous or outstanding cretinous driving isn't high on the agenda. Benefit cheats? Yep.

    Good that you got a response.

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  20. Hi Invicta,
    That's a shame. When I posted the pics on a local bike forum, I had a member who was a cop get in touch offering to take it further, as did one of my riding partners who is a highway patrol officer. In the end, I decided not to go down that road because the person's company did the right thing.

    Thanks for dropping by. I see you're from Kent. Got married in Hildenborough exactly 40 years and 4 days ago!

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  21. Glad to hear that the outcome was satisfactory, and glad that probably lives were saved by taking the right action of all parties involved.

    And congrats to 40 years of marriage. Actually, sadly enough I don't know a lot of couples that made it that long... RESPECT!

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  22. Thanks on all counts Sonja!

    Just to add a final note, I had an email apology from the offending driver just a few hours ago. I guess he was leaned on but nonetheless, it did seem sincere so I wrote back in a similarly positive way.

    You'll know that it's not always easy living with a pedantic engineer and I know that there are times when Jennie would cheerfully use a carving knife for another purpose but that doesn't mean that I'm not still crazy about her!

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  23. I think you did the right thing. It doesn't have to be a rant to the employer, but pointing out something that is a liability to their company. This didn't have to be a situation where the employer might have been looking for a last reason to get ride of someone. It could be that the employer needs to know before they are sued by a family that was affected by this driver. Saving tons of time, money, and grief for many people.

    My next thought though...what if this was a personal ute and not a company one? What would/could you have done if that was just someone driving their personal vehicle down the road? It is always easier if the vehicle is part of a company and you feel like you can get someone to look at it. Not the same when it isn't.

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    1. Hi Lori and thanks!
      Very perceptive and we've discussed that very topic without reaching a definite conclusion. If it was as bad as in this particular case, I'd like to think that we would have reported it to the police because doing nothing would have weighed heavily on the conscience.

      If the person involved was fined heavily and incurred demerit points on their licence (or lost it in an extreme case), it would hopefully still give them pause for thought. However, the outcome might not be as good as some retraining. Not sure if the courts can order this but I might be inclined to ask if they could. It's unfortunately one of those situations which has all sorts of shades of grey rather than a black and white solution but at least doing something is better than doing nothing. It was more stressful that I first thought trying to work out what might be the best solution in this instance.

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  24. Kudos to you for making sure the driver of the ute realized he/she had been noticed. Too many times the drivers are young and "invincible" ... they often need some reality check to let them know it isn't okay before it is fatal. I hope he/she takes it to heart.

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  25. Thanks Karen,
    If it had been a "boy racer" with a lowered Japanese car and cap on sideways, I'd have had no problem calling the cops. 3 offences and they get their cars crushed!

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