The tractor was travelling at a steady 50 kilometres an hour as I followed it for several hundred metres on a windy stretch of road.
When we got to a straight I indicated, put my foot down and pulled out to pass.
By the time I pulled back in I was doing more than 80 kph.
If you have to go more than 30 kilometres faster to pass someone travelling at 50 kph, how can you pass someone driving faster but still under 100 kph without exceeding the speed limit?
If you want to minimise the time exposed to danger – TED, when you’re on the right hand side of the road – you can’t.
In good driving conditions we are advised to apply the “two-second rule”. At 90km/h that’s 50m. So you pull out 50m behind a truck and trailer, the truck and trailer is 20m long and you pull in once safely 50m past. You have to make 120m to pass safely.
If the truck is doing 90km/h and you stick to 100km/h it takes 43 seconds to gain that 120m.
At 100km/h you will have travelled 1.2km. You must allow for a car coming towards you at 100km/h. To pass safely you need 2.4km of clear road.
That doesn’t happen often.
So you wait for a passing lane. The traffic behind the truck and trailer builds up. Finally you get to a passing lane. The front cars take off – at 100km/h. I drove Auckland to Queenstown these holidays and typically only the first two cars would make it past.
I would then watch in horror as a couple of frustrated drivers would try to pass the line of cars and the truck and trailer without the benefit of a passing lane or a clear road. It was frightening. And predictable. . .
What’s also predictable is that the slow vehicle will often speed up at a passing lane making it even more difficult to pass.
I am no speedster. I am never in a hurry. I am content to drive at the speed of the traffic, whether its 90km/h or 100km/h. In more than 40 years I have only had two speeding tickets.
But if I must pass, I hit the gas hard. I want to get past as quickly as I can to get back on the correct side of the road as soon as I can. I minimise what is called the “time exposed to danger”. I typically pass at 120km/h. . .
A friend was clocked doing about 120 kph as he passed a large truck. The traffic officer eventually, albeit reluctantly, accepted his explanation that passing quickly by reducing the TED was safer than passing slowly and that not passing at all was impractical.
A few kilometres slower or faster doesn’t make much difference to the time of a long journey. But if the second vehicle doesn’t pass the first then a third will catch them up and soon there will be a long queue which will inevitably catch up to an even slower vehicle.
Another friend was in a long line of slow traffic when a police car passed with siren and flashing lights going and pulled up the first car that had been holding everyone else up.
That’s two instances of good policing.
The first recognised that minimising TED can be safer even if it means temporarily exceeding 100 kph.
The second recognised that going too slowly without letting other vehicles pass can also be dangerous.