Monday, 29 October 2007

Safety fast

Only God can make a tree, observed PJ O'Rourke, but only man can drive by one at one-hundred-and-fifty miles per hour. I can't boast that my little MG can do anywhere near that sort of speed, but driving up the North Island on my way back from Saturday's Atlas Celebrations in Wellington with the sun out, the roof down and my foot flat to the floor in company with another classic car owner, I meditated again that New Zealand is a gorgeous country in which to drive fast, and far too beautiful a place to be left to the tribalists, the collectivists and the postmodern wankers.

As Dave Henderson said Saturday night, these islands are our home -- and a truly breathtaking home it is, full of great landscapes, good people and fun-loving machinery like this.

Don't let it go!

UPDATE: Here's a pic of myself and my driving companion leaving Tarawera (shot of accompanying TR6 sadly still unavailable) ...

... and myself and a much better looking companion:

UPDATE 2: BTW, anybody understand the "Safety Fast" reference? I guess not. It used to be the official MG slogan: "Safety Fast! Raise your heartbeat!" Worth raising a glass or two to, huh.


  1. Well said, Peter...yes, our Great Nation is too beautiful to leave to those you describe.

    What is sad is that most of them never bother to go and see the that would take them away from cellular telephones, i-pods, University dungeons, Socialist Bookshops and the like.

    Which way did you go...the main highway through Taupo and the Waikato, or the other way through National Park and the King Country?

  2. So what year is the midget, mk? Im hoping to appropriate the mkI (that needs some assembling) from my father at some stage.

  3. Ah yes. I like driving fast as well. Highest velocity obtained on a NZ road in perfect safety in a good car is 288 km/hr. Won't say where but there are a couple of brilliant corners at the end of that straight. It's a technical and demanding road that - best left to those in the know. A secret it shall stay!

    I've experienced numerous excursions above 255 on the Southern M/way but alas not so much these days. Too many unsafe drivers to contend with.

    What is it with the road fascists and their hysteria over velicity? The way they go on one would think velocity was worse than imbibing P and that any instance of enjoyable unregulated driving would result in the destruction of the whole country.


  4. Lucky you weren't caught and your car impounded for being a boy racer PC. Mine was -- I wasn't driving it at the time I hasten to add.

    That's another disgraceful rort - police impounding cars for random reasons and you having to pay hundreds of dollars to get the car back.

  5. Love your pic PC but it's not NZ but UK by the vehicle registration plates!

  6. Police impounding cars...disgraceful. One of the things the Magna Carta was supposed to give us was protection from the state taking our horse power.

    Oh, the history that repeats...

  7. Doing the same trip, for the same reason Peter, had the same thought. The Poplar tree-lined Manawatu, to the moon-mountain-scape of the Desert Road, to cornering round the edge of Lake Taupo, all within a coupla hours, under a blue sky. Crusin' on 6 yankee cylinders. She's pretty. And the countryside too. Been some work done out there over the years.

  8. Yes, I understand that the Police have the power to steal your car should they want. I guess that would be why so many drivers flee rather than stop when they encounter them. Probably a factor in the increased incidence of dangerous chases, injuries and deaths.

    As has happened overseas already, the next trend will be for those who do not want their own cars impounded to steal other people's cars and go joyriding. "Drive it like you stole it" is the expression.

    Funny how authoritarian laws and regulations never work as intended.


  9. "Funny how authoritarian laws and regulations never work as intended."

    Correct, LG. A smaller (but no less telling) example is the crap littering the sides of our state-owned main roads. I drive up & down the NI every 6-8 weeks - always via National Park, Elijah .. no traffic! - and the litter's disgusting. I've often wondered as to what the difference might be should they be privately operated. Same difference as that between public and private loos, you think?

    Can't beat those clean, green Kiwis, eh ...

  10. If the roads were privatised, the speed limits would in all likelihood be more sensible, but I doubt they'd be abolished.

    There is no benefit to the road-owner to having cars going excessively fast and there are costs - having to close the roads while emergency services go in to mop up the victims.

    I'm no speed-nazi, I too think the speed limits are arbitrary and overly low, but even in a libertarian world you wouldn't be zipping around the country streets at 280km/hr.

  11. Craig

    I suggest you take a trip to Europe, esp parts of Germany and Italy and see how easy and convenient higher road velocity is when undertaken correctly.

    280km/hr is not such a big deal and neither Germany, nor Italy are what one could identify as Libertarian.

    The whole idea of speed limits is arbitrary, pointless and foolish. Best to abandon them and allow road technology and road skills improve.


  12. Yes, my point being that on the vast majority of NZ roads, such speeds are excessive, and that the owner of such roads would gain no benefit from individuals traveling at such speeds.

    I'd LOVE a decent SH1, not the two-lane backroad we currently call our main highway.

    My point was that, given the roads are currently as they are, a private road owner would be very unlikely to completely abolish speed limits, and given the current infrastructure, such a move would be unwise.

    The IDEA of speed limits isn't pointless, their poor implementation is. There is a reason people shouldn't be able to blast past urban primary schools at 120 km/hr... (and there are always idiots who would want to)

  13. ELIJAH:

    "Which way did you go?"

    Down one side of the lake, back up the other, avoiding main highways wherever possible. Favourite part was thundering up the Whanganui River Valley, emerging just south of Raetihi to see the three great mountains standing clearly in the sun. Just beautiful. :-)

    OWEN: "So what year is the midget, mk? Im hoping to appropriate the mkI (that needs some assembling) from my father at some stage."

    1967 Mk III. Good luck with the Mk I - I used to have a Mk I; there's actually a little more room for longer legs in the earlier car.

    ANONYMOUS: "Lucky you weren't caught and your car impounded for being a boy racer PC... "

    Given that the chief pleasure in driving a car like an MG is driving hard within reasonable speed limits, that was never a concern. ;^)

    BARRY: "Love your pic PC but it's not NZ but UK by the vehicle registration plates!"
    Aye it is. Didn't have my own pics ready to post when I first blogged.

    SAM: "Doing the same trip, for the same reason Peter, had the same thought. The Poplar tree-lined Manawatu, to the moon-mountain-scape of the Desert Road, to cornering round the edge of Lake Taupo, all within a coupla hours, under a blue sky..." Mmm, there's a different landscape almost around every corner. Great to explore.

  14. Oh limp one, you really are soft!

    In the real world it is those who fail to stick to principles who achieve little or nothing- people who compromise because everything is "complex" and "grey" are, in essence, helpless. They drift along reacting; never controlling their own lives. Even dedicated socialists and communists do much better than that. They know what they want and what their principles are. The rest (people like you and your mate) are social ballast (or more bluntly, useful idiots).

    Think on this you soft headed thing, we are dealing with politics, which it's all a man made. How hard can it be? Not very. It certainly isn't impenetrable. Even for you.


  15. Above posted in error. meant to go elsewhere. please delete or ignore.

  16. Craig

    Speed saves life. The faster one gets to one's destination the more time is available for doing what one wants. Speed limits are just as foolish and pointless as tax. Think on it.


    It was suggested you visit a few autobahn stretches and see for yourself what they are like. You'd likely be surprised. There are comparable roads present in NZ (which is not to say there wouldn't be even better onces built if the road network business was in private ownership).

    Whether the majority of roads in NZ are presently suited to high speeds or not is irrelevant. Sames goes for roads in Europe or Germany. Your point is irrelevant. It is a matter of what would occur when govt gets out of the road business and leaves it completely alone.


    288km/hr is not unreasonable, as I have demonstrated (actually I've been a lot faster as a passenger in a car in Italy but since we are discussing NZ roads we'll leave that example for the moment). It takes concentration and care but it can be accomplished in safety and with convenience. Better roads and better vehicles (presently forbidden by govt regulation) would allow these speeds to be seen for the modest achievements they are. Cars have been capable of cruising at 250km/hr and above for some 40 years. Think on that. In 40 years car performances have not really improved all that greatly. Useable performance has been stunted.

    I think the trouble is one of perception. People have been brainwashed into believing higher speeds are a big deal; hence dangerous. "There be devils and dragons" present when one goes "fast."

    A problem is that many cars built today are, in essence, dumbed down exercises in styling excess. They do not perform function very well, but since that's what the govt requires, that's what the customer is allowed. Most people drive awful vehicles and don't know any better. It's quite dangerous, as on the occasion when they need some reasonable dynamic performance (say a sudden avoidance or turn) their vehicle is going to depart from control and "show its cloven hoof" without much provocation.

    Engineers know it as encountering phase lag and entering the region of non-linear response. They know naive drivers are unable to respond in any functional maner when this happens. Drivers simply freeze when their car behaves in a different manner from what they thought it would do. It does not take much speed to get into this region for most vehicles (SUVs and 4x4s are a good example of dynamically dangerous vehicles).

    Given the abysmal standard of cars that most people drive, and the low standard of driving skill they possess, they are easily rendered scared of speed. They are readily convinced that it is unsafe because whenever they drive their car fast it feels dangerous and different. I suspect that is where your experience lies.

    Anyway, remove govt from the transport equation and you'll soon find that'd change. Know how I know? Ask a motorcyclist. Some of their bikes are amazing. Still not ideal but much better than cars since the government hasn't been able to affect their design and dynamics with as much regulation as the cars have had (yet).


  17. John. F. Minto1 Nov 2007, 00:16:00

    LGM said : 288km/hr is not unreasonable

    No, the roads are owned by the government (their properties), so do as what the law says and don't try to demand an unlimited driving speed on roads that you don't own.

    I thought that you're a proponent of property rights?

  18. The government does not own the roads, they are public property. That means...

    Seriously, John, you need to do better than that. Next thing you'll be demanding recognition of the "property rights" of those in possesion of stolen property.


  19. LGM,

    1) Speed limits allow police to prevent irresponsible individuals endangering others with their behaviour. My previous example of blasting at 120kph past a primary school... this should be allowed if the driver thinks they're a safe driver in a good car?

    2) Because you've gotten away with it doesn't make it safe. At a different time, a tractor could have come out of a side road and I'd be along to pick up your various pieces (or, worse, the pieces of the person you hit).

    3) Going three times the speed of other road users often will be a big deal. Your stopping distance becomes huge, and other road users have to react to you.

    4) You haven't addressed my point - with the current roads, even a private company would set speed limits. They do not benefit from you cruising around at 200+kph, but do suffer a loss when you kill yourself or wipe out another driver

    5) The problem isn't the existence of speed limits, it is the setting of them. You might think you're safe going that speed - but there are plenty who won't have your level of skill (but will also think that they're safe - until they cross the centre line)

    6)Speed of itself isn't inherently dangerous and speed limits of themselves aren't inherently stupid. Speed limits should be used to recognise situations where speed is dangerous (the DO exist!).

  20. Should I ask the motorcyclist who bisected himself going 150kph on the southern motorway a few weeks ago?

    That can't have happened, he must have known he was a good rider to be going that fast...

    I AGREE that speed limits in this country are stupid, but to believe that speed shouldn't be limited in any circumstance is crazy.


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