I live near the top of Mt Victoria in Wellington and drive a small, low, aging, sports car, a Honda CRX Del Sol. There are three ways to get from the top to the bottom of the hill: through the Town Belt to Newtown, a comparatively straight road with a gradual slope, via steep, winding, narrow streets down to Hataitai, or via steep, narrow, winding streets down to Courtenay Place.
A trip up or down the hill to town in particular is a matter of taking your life in your hands. City buses and tourist buses regularly travel up and down, cars are parked on one or both sides of the streets and many of the turns are pretty much blind: you can’t see what’s coming until it’s right in front of you. Very often someone needs to give way, perhaps back up (or down) to make room, and when buses are involved it can be particularly hair-raising. Road works and places where the hillside has fallen down after a heavy rain always add extra interest.
It’s a give-and-take environment where road rules aren’t specially helpful: it’s a pragmatic matter of who is where on the road and when that shapes who gives way, rather than some fixed rule.
Many drivers are cautious, polite and helpful, but unfortunately many others are not. It’s not at all uncommon for a driver just to barrel ahead at a comparatively high (and dangerous) speed. Some never give way but claim the road as their own. The rule of their road seems to be “I have a big car and that means I have right of way over all comers”. Particularly problematic are the drivers of ‘big cars’ such as SUVs. Now we have proof, and from Wellington, no less, that drivers of SUVs tend to be less safe in their driving habits:
SUV owners need a hand to drive better: Jared Thomas and Darren Walton of the Opus behavioural sciences lab in Wellington, New Zealand, watched 1196 SUV and car drivers on motorways to see whether they drove with their hands at the “ten-minutes-to-two” position on the steering wheel — a sign of a safe, alert driver.
They found that SUV drivers were 55 per cent more likely to drive with only one hand on the top half of the wheel than drivers of regular cars (Transportation Research F, DOI: 10.1016/j.trf.2006.10.001). “Being in larger, taller vehicles, SUV drivers believe they are safer and possess a lower level of perceived risk than car drivers,” says Thomas.
[Via New Scientist Tech.]