Posts tagged ‘driving’


There must be a different metric system on our roads these days

24.05.2019


The new metric system: I’m following the car in front at the correct distance. Cf. the drivers in the other lanes.

Now that I live in the northern suburbs, I have to go on the motorway far more frequently. It’s become apparent that New Zealand has had a complete change of measurement system and I was unaware of it.
   I thought we were on the metric system but apparently, there is a new metric system at play these days.
   When the “smart” motorway speed limit signs display 60 km/h, a handful of drivers, like me, go at the old 60 km/h. But there is evidently a new 60 km/h, which we oldies called ‘80 km/h’. If the other drivers are not breaking the law, the majority of cars in this country appear to have had speedometers newly calibrated to the new metric system. When the sign says 80 km/h, they will travel at between 90 and 100 km/h. It doesn’t quite explain why, when the sign says 100 km/h, so many drive at 90 km/h, but that’s the incredible nature of the new metric system: unlike the old, it’s not proportional.
   I’m not entirely sure how the system converts metres or seconds, as I seem to do double the following distance of the majority of drivers. From memory, it’s 40 m at 100 km/h, or, if you want to adopt the 1970s slogan from the UK, or the one uttered by the late Peter Brock, ‘Only a fool breaks the two-second rule.’ The new metric system at play in New Zealand means that the new 40 m is the same as what we old-timers called 20 m. Or, if they’re going by the clock, two seconds is what we used to call one second. I assume this new metric system also applies to penis length for men, so they aren’t too disappointed when their 7½ cm is now called 15 cm. Sounds so much bigger, doesn’t it, lads?
   Now, I could be wrong about there being a new metric system in this country. It’s simply that many people don’t understand speed and distance, or how road signs work. If you are male and think that 20 m really is 40 m, then maybe you have a small dick and have been convincing yourself otherwise, and the problem is multiplied on the roads. Sadly, however, this lack of awareness of time and distance isn’t exclusively a male thing.
   As a nation, we’ve been so busy for such a long time blaming “Asian drivers” that our standards have dropped like stones. It wasn’t that long ago when we Wellingtonians mocked Aucklanders for their ‘Merge like a zip’ signs in the mid-2000s—yet it seems an increasing number of us in the capital are now just as clueless on how traffic merges into a single lane.
   All this makes you wonder if Greg Murphy was right when he suggested we should re-sit our driving test every 10 years.

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After driving automatic and manual trucks, the manual still wins for me

05.03.2019

I rented a couple of trucks over the last few days, and I’m surprised that automatics have taken such a hold in this country.
   I’ve written about my preference for manuals elsewhere, and for a regular car, I would consider one with a sequential gearbox. We’re in an era now where the advantages of a modern automatic can outweigh those of a manual, notably in fuel economy. Generally, however, having the control of a manual—and not having an atrophied left leg while driving—is my preference, and it’s absolutely fine even in gridlock if you know how to control the gears properly. I grew up with the idea, rightly or wrongly, that a good driver knows how to operate a manual and desires the control that it affords.
   Polling my friends, it appears that half have the same preference as me and many note, ‘But I own an automatic because I couldn’t find a manual.’ It’s true: we’ve become a slush-box nation just as the United States has, going from a country where maybe 10 per cent were autos to one where 90 per cent are. A big part of that shift happened this century. The notion that automatics have been market-driven (as I was told at Brendan Foot) is, as far as I can ascertain, bollocks.
   In 2015–16, I went to some extremes to buy the car I wanted, namely one with a manual transmission, by sourcing one from where the majority of drivers still prefer to shift gears themselves: the UK. I understand that the UK, as New Zealand once did, insists that you do your driver’s licence test in a manual if you want to be able to drive both; should you do it in an auto, you’re restricted to just autos until you ‘upgrade’ to a manual licence. Indeed, the latter position invites ridicule in the UK—Daniel Craig got his share of it after a fake-news piece alleged he didn’t know how to drive a manual.
   This UK licensing position still makes sense to me, but it appears we license people to drive manuals even though they have never seen a clutch in their lives.
   One of the young men helping me out with shifting stuff in the truck, who is on a learner’s, and owns an automatic, said to me that he couldn’t comprehend a manual, and that confirms that we may have it wrong with our licensing system by slavishly following the US.
   And after the weekend’s experience, I’m even more wedded to manual transmissions.
   The first truck from Vancy Rentals was a two-tonne Toyota Dyna with a slush box. For the most part it wasn’t too difficult to drive, except for one corner when I had to turn off the Hutt Road (speed limit 80 km/h) to head up Ngauranga Gorge, while carrying a load. I didn’t consider that I was going too quickly but the truck’s gearing did not change down with the speed reduction, and I had to rely solely on heavy braking to slow the vehicle. I wrestled with the steering wheel to keep it in my lane but came close to crossing the line.
   You can put this down to inexperience and you would be partially right. With hindsight, I could have turned off the overdrive, or changed to D-4, but in my opinion autos have a tendency to make you lazy. It’s the equivalent of a point-and-shoot Instamatic camera: acceptable but not what a professional might demand for full control.
   The second was a larger 2·5 tonner from Hino, but with a five-speed manual transmission. That corner was taken cleanly (with an even heavier and higher load) by shifting down, and it was simple heading down Ngauranga later by changing into a lower gear—exactly what the sign at the top of the Gorge suggests you do. It kept the truck to a maximum of 80 km/h, the legal limit down that stretch. (I also accomplished this with D-4 on the Toyota.) It was at this point that my young helper remarked that he couldn’t understand the manual, so I pointed out that it was the gearing that was keeping us safely within the speed limit, not the brake—by having that additional security I wouldn’t be reliant solely on the truck’s braking system.
   That same thinking applies to my driving in a motor car, and I wonder why one wouldn’t want the extra assurance of having chosen the gear yourself, limiting your speed when needed, and not be dependent on the decision of a gearbox engineer in Japan (or elsewhere) who mightn’t understand Kiwi roads.

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