Avoid the Traffic on Waitangi Weekend

The NZTA have a couple of fantastic services for long weekends and public holidays called Holiday Hotspots. I use it every long weekend when I go away and barring people having accidents, I enjoy near normal driving speeds and even the bottlenecks are pretty good.

hhYou can find it here and it is responsive so you can use it on your mobile as well as on a tablet or computer. Or you can go to www.nzta.govt.nz and click on Traffic and Travel. You’ll find loads of information there for this and future trips.

hhpuhoiThere are different ways to get to the same place, but if you click on a button or the name of the place, you can dig in for more information. If you hover over the table with your mouse, or tap and hold on your mobile device you will find even more info on the tables.

This is a brilliant service for Waitangi Weekend particularly because it is a complex weekend with celebrations in key places that makes some of the patterns different from normal holiday weekends, for example heading north a lot of people already left last night, possibly going to the far north for the Treaty celebrations. In other areas a lot are going away on the Friday or the Saturday.

Some of the travel patterns are different based on how far people typically travel. So I recommend if you don’t want to get stuck in traffic, visit this page and have a great drive like I usually do. My time is valuable and my car was not designed to stop-start. The parking lots we often experience are because people don’t plan ahead. It’s caused by people who just get in their cars and go. Imagine if everyone in Auckland tried to drive North and South at the same time?

otmwaitangiI want to quickly tell you about another free product that I and many of my friends enjoy called OnTheMove in case you haven’t heard about it yet. It is a free email subscription service where you can register and identify what route you are traveling, what days and what times, and it will send you emails if anything occurs during the trip that might cause you a problem.

Imagine for example if you subscribed to start getting alerts an hour before you left and there was a serious crash between Auckland and Wellsford, you could avoid it by taking SH16 instead of SH1.  You can even subscribe to regional alerts. It works on your mobile as well as your other devices. You can use it once, you can use it every day, you can have multiple routes, you can even monitor a region and plan visits to different locations based on any traffic events..

Use these simple tools this weekend for your road trip and you might just find that you have more time at your destination and less in the traffic. If you tell your friends and colleagues, it’s even better because the more people that plan their travel, the less congested it gets and of course they will get the same good experience you will enjoy. That’s because we cause the congestion when we get in our cars.

So how about giving these tools a try and letting me know what you think? Please note that any comments I make on my blogs are totally my own opinions and do not in any way represent my employer.

Posted in car accidents, car crash, congestion, Crash, drivers, driving, driving app, Good travel apps, holiday traffic, Intelligent Transport Systems, ITS, location based apps, long weekend, mobile holiday apps, Mobile Maps, Motoring, real time traffic, Route Optimisation, RTTI, safer driving, safer journeys, Tourism, Tourism apps, tourism tech, traffic, traffic congestion, Traffic Control, traffic demand, Traffic jam, Traffic Management, Traffic Optimization, Travel, Travel Apps, Travel Information, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tesla Alerts Driver of Impending Crash

This is the first time I have seen a domestic crash warning in action in a normal car, not a test track or artificial situation. These people were driving in the Netherlands when they heard an incongruous little beep. Hopefully they knew what it meant, but the cruise control also started breaking just before the crash occurred.

As long as the technology is reliable and not prone to false alarms it seems fantastic. The reason I mentioned false alarms is the practice of lane splitting which is now normal for most motorcycle riders.

Yesterday on my way home I made room on the motorway for what looked like a Harley VRSCDX V-Rod 10th Anniversary edition motorcycle. There was enough room so I made him a gap and let him pass. What happened after that was pretty scary. This great looking 1250cc bike looks like a lot of fun to ride on the open road, but the guy riding it was squeezing between cars and trucks that in a number of cases appeared not to know he was there.

It’s a wonder he didn’t crash on a number of occasions. I don’t know f he was inexperienced with the bike, but it was too big to just slalom between the vehicles he was overtaking. It was as though he had to fight the bike every inch of the way.

Based on what I saw on the video above, I would expect that riding to have set off the Tesla alarm 3 or 4 times.

I have to say I am also surprised at the little beep from the Tesla. I’d expect something a little more “warning Will Robinson”. If you’re listening to music, in the middle of a conversation or otherwise not attuned to the sound and then your car started braking, you might be inclined to override the cruise control and accelerate into the carnage. I’m assuming that you can override it because anyone who has done an advanced drivers course knows that sometimes you need to accelerate to avoid an event, not brake.

Nevertheless, job well done, collision averted and the Tesla passengers are probably fans for life and maybe a little famous. I’m sure the media and Tesla would pay for footage and interviews. This will certainly help sell cars.

Posted in Autonomous cars, bikes, car accidents, car crash, drivers, driving, future car, Future Technology, Intelligent Transport Systems, ITS, LiDAR, location based apps, Motoring, new cars, real time traffic, safer driving, safer journeys, safety, Tesla, Traffic Information, Transport | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

You may not want to watch this video, but it could save a life from driver distraction.

I’ve written a lot of blogs about driver distraction lately. It’s the season to be jolly, but it’s hectic, busy, stressful and very easy to lose concentration for a brief moment.

I have lost close friends through driver distraction, most of them (not all) were innocent victims, doing everything right, but they are no longer with us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChristmas Day for our family starts at the cemetery where we visit friends including a teenager who was an awesome human being, but will never grow up. He was a passenger in a vehicle the driver should not have been anywhere near. He was a great friend of the family and would have made a great father and husband. I will never forget sitting at his home, holding his cold hand after he returned from the funeral parlour and the solid outpouring of grief that continued for days and we still struggle with at times.

This compilation video from the Transport Action Commission in Victoria is the toughest watch I have ever seen. It is a compilation of 20 years of Australian safety videos, trying to reduce needless deaths on the road.

Christmas is coming and I am hoping that none of you will be grieving for a loved one that isn’t going to be there because of bad decisions on someone’s part. If you are still hurting badly from the loss of a loved one, don’t watch the following video. If you don’t watch the video, have a read of my blog from yesterday. There are plenty of things that you can do or stop doing that might extend your life.

Posted in accidents, car accidents, car crash, car safety, Christmas Dinner, distracted driving, DistractedDriving, driver behavior, driver distraction, holiday traffic, Motoring, People, rubberneckers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

13 Ways Driving to Distraction May Stop You or Others Enjoying Christmas This Year

It’s December and we’re all talking about Christmas, family lunches, parties and the importance of enjoying each other’s company after a long year.

I want to talk about how you can drive yourself to distraction such that there is a high risk that you, a loved one or a total stranger might not get to the family or other Christmas party because of a single moment of inattention. Latest stats I saw, showed that the driver represented less than half of the people killed or injured where driver distraction was a factor.

Here are some ways that people have been killed or seriously injured and many of these things happen every day. And watch the short videos at the end. You might find them entertaining, but I guarantee a lot of people didn’t see the funny side.

  1. Being tired or fatigued. What happens when you are fatigued, come to a green light at a controlled intersection and just haven’t got the reaction time to react to the guy who runs the red light  and T-Bones you.
  2. Holding a phone to your ear and driving with one hand. I’ve said it before, we humans can’t multi-task (one of my colleagues said except women:). My wife was sitting at a red light at an Auckland motorway off ramp. She turned her head when she heard the screech of brakes. She was craning her neck to see what was coming and saw the van driver, one hand on his phone and one on the steering wheel, with not enough hands to avoid slamming straight into her. She could see the horror in her eyes. Then she dealt with the whiplash, headaches and pain for about 2 years after. He apologised….
  3. Eating hot food and dropping it on your lap. Many Kiwis will have memories of wearing shorts and dropping the guts out of a steaming hot meat pie or a coffee on their lap while driving. Do you remember the feeling of the burn on your skin and did you stay calmly focused on the road ahead?
  4. When I was commuting on the motorway (I now use arterials, every day I saw people eating cereal, yoghurt and other foods while driving. The good news is the fender benders tend not to be very bad, but I have a couple of questions. If one hand is on the bowl and another is manipulating the spoon, how many hands do you have left to control the car? Of course if this is during peak time it’s just as likely that the minor nose to tail will involve not only 4 or 5 vehicles, but delay thousands of people from getting to work because of the consequent congestion. How would you like to put your hand up and go on TV news that night and say “sorry for making you all late for work and causing 10’s of thousands of dollars in damage, but I was hungry.”?
  5. Putting on make-up. Tell me you haven’t seen them. One hand on the compact, one on the applicator and looking into the visor mirror. I would never do it, but I’ve certainly been tempted to suddenly brake, or slam on my horn while they are applying their lippy. Of course if they crash then it would be my fault, so I just do it in my imagination while focus on the road ahead:)
  6. Changing the track or station on the car entertainment system or your mobile. This week I’ve heard 3 people mention Spotify, changing tacks, liking and saving them, adding them to a list, looking for an album or going to the artist radio to name a few of the things you can do. Our entertainment systems are becoming more and more feature packed because that’s what customers want. By all means let your passengers be entertained, but your job is to get yourself and them to their destinations safely. It’s also interesting reading the 2016 Ministry of Transport statistics that show the number of people injured or killed in accidents where driver distraction was not a factor and who either weren’t the driver or in many cases weren’t even in the vehicle!
  7. An appropriate etiquette that most of us have been trained to do is to look at the person you are speaking to. This is very important in a normal conversation, but unless the conversation is to die for, forget convention and keep the conversation simple. Want to have a deep and meaningful, pull over and have a coffee or save it till later.
  8. Reaching for something. The girl described in the video from the book One Split Second, died when her (probably very good driver) reached over for a napkin. She came from a very close family and was on her way home from university for Thanksgiving. Imagine that Thanksgiving weekend. A totally innocuous little action that most people wouldn’t think twice about took a life and changed lives irrevocably.
  9. Talking on a handsfree phone. You’re saying, “but I have both hands on the phone.” True, but at least half of your attention is on that phone call. You may be a good driver, but what if the person cutting a corner coming in the opposite direction isn’t. Perhaps they are from another country where they are driving on the wrong side of the road. On Friday I was on a road trip and watched the driver and passenger in a campervan both pointing at the large screen nav unit on their dash. How much of the driver’s attention was on the vehicle he had rented and wasn’t used to driving?
  10. Ever had to turn around to control children or pets? If it’s serious, pull over and stop the car. If not, leave it.
  11. Being emotionally upset or angry. Ever thought of how many people who are extremely angry or upset go for a drive? Whether they drop the lead foot and screech away or simply drive off through a haze of tears, focussed on the unfairness of the world, how prepared are they for the unexpected? Remember a lot of crashes don’t happen because of something you were doing, but because you couldn’t respond to something else that happened on the road in time. We don’t want to make a bad or sad situation worse.
  12. One I hadn’t thought about as much, but is common, is looking at scenery, as someone mentioned to me on Monday, summer has arrived and people are wearing more revealing clothes which causes distraction for urban drivers and in waterfront areas or holiday resorts. You don’t want to be that idiot who crashes their car in front of an attractive person they couldn’t keep their eyes off. This doesn’t exactly present you in the light of one of the more advanced of the species.
  13. Rubbernecking. I thought I’d leave this for last. You make up your own mind if these people were distracted or not. So many people are killed, injured or spend a lot of money at the panelbeater, simply because what was happening on the other side of the road stopped them from paying attention to their own side of the road.

I wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas. I hope that you will think about these things and talk to others about it. As I mentioned in a previous blog, a British survey identified that 2 million British people, sitting next to a driver holding a phone and talking on it would say nothing. I was stunned. Is that you? Is that phone call worth your life?

Posted in car crash, distracted driving, DistractedDriving, rubberneckers | 1 Comment

Raves and a little rant from Paihia to Auckland

On the weekend I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest speaker at the Northland National Road Carriers event in Paihia. It was great to have the pleasure to speak with and learn from people that have been on the road for many years and are very passionate about what they do.

When I present I try to really engage with the audience, show them that I care and that I really want to understand what matters to them. I can tell you I learned a lot from them and hopefully they will have learnt something from me too.

We have known for a long time and you will find it in past blogs from me that our freight industry driver pool is ageing. The average age is in the mid to late 50’s which is a real problem as people get older and many younger people if they want to drive would rather go to the Australian mines or other places where they can earn a lot more money.

Meanwhile we have people with a wealth of valuable experience, some of whom are still driving at the age of 70 and clearly they are still bright, alert, experienced and capable.

My focus and mission was to find out if they put as much effort into preparing for their journey by way of finding out about traffic information on their route as they do on preparing their vehicles inside and out and their loads.

Whilst initially participation in the discussion was slow and I was prewarned that many of them would not put their hands up, it became very clear that some of the tools used for provision of real time traffic information are not accessible to that age group. Many of them don’t use social media, even to keep up with family, most of them appear not to use apps, even industry apps designed especially for them. They are still mired in ‘time proven’ 2-way radio and other word of mouth communications to share information with each other.

This is a generalisation, many did put their hands up, the younger ones, but I got a call from one of those younger ones saying “You’re talking to the wrong generation, Mate”. Yet, these are the drivers in many cases driving very modern rigs with the same responsibilities as the young guns in their forties.  So after many discussions, I concluded that I need to have more discussions with them and also gain more focus on despatchers and other ways of communicating with these people who are key to keeping our country moving and flourishing. We have seen what happens with the Kaikoura earthquake, how quickly places get isolated if freight can’t move. They only carry enough essential stock of fast moving consumer goods for a few days (which is normal).


A free service from The Cabbage Tree

While I was in Paihia, which was beautiful, warm and friendly and I loved the relaxed atmosphere.

One of the typical little things is that there were baskets with umbrellas in them dotted around town. The idea is that if there is a shower, you grab yourself a brolly and when you get to your next destination you drop it off for someone else to use. Nice one folks.

We drove home on the Sunday after enjoying the last All Blacks test of the season, there’s nothing like a win against France to put a smile on your dial, especially because being the last match of the year, whatever happens at that last match you have to carry with you to the next season. Sorry I’m a Kiwi and I love my footie:)


So we hop in the Corvette for the drive home, most of which was warm and sunny and we experienced a couple of things, one which was wonderful and the other not so much, especially for my wife.

There are a number of passing lanes on the road south, particularly between Whangarei and Auckland and there was a lot of traffic in both directions. But here’s the thing, other than when there was the odd very slow vehicle, a large truck or a very old campervan that had a maximum speed of about 60km per hour, when people took the legal opportunity to pass. At any other time, the majority of motorists didn’t use the passing lanes at all. They all stayed in single file, knowing that they wouldn’t get to their destinations any quicker if they had to keep merging. I don’t see this all over the country, but I do see it a lot in Northland. It makes you proud that so many people do the right thing because they choose to.

The rant is different. There are a lot of road works to the south of the summit of the Brynderwyn range and a lot of it is coned off with a speed limit of 50km per hour. We had almost reached the summit at exactly 2PM (my watch vibrates on the hour) when a very large milk tanker and trailer came around the corner at pace. It must have been doing 70 or 80 km as it reached the cones and the front driver side wheels were on our side of the road.

My wife was far from impressed as our car is left hand drive which had her eyeballing the wheel nuts of the huge truck’s wheels. If he had been a couple of feet closer he could have been driving over the top of our car like those tanks you see on YouTube clips.

The frustrating thing is that the driver won’t be reprimanded because the 50 kph speed limit is a temporary one for the road works and therefore wouldn’t have registered on the very good Fleet Management system the company uses. I don’t know if he was in a hurry, distracted or had another reason for speeding on a high crash zone piece of road, but a little closer and I wouldn’t still be blogging. The profile of our car would have made it the perfect ramp for the truck to squash.

Anyway, we survived but the rest of the journey was far from relaxed.


Posted in Business, car safety, Customer Research, Customers, driver behavior, driver distraction, drivers, driving, driving app, Fleet Management, Freight App, GPS Tracking, Location Based Consultant, Motoring, safer driving, safer journeys, traffic, traffic congestion, Traffic Control, Traffic Information, Traffic Management, Traffic Optimization, truck safety, Trucks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

10 Ways Not to Die in Your Car in A Split Second

So I’ve been reading the book by Vijay Dixit about how his daughter died in a car crash on a long straight road, on her way home to her family from college. The driver was simply looking for a napkin. Not doing drugs, not playing games, just a simple thing all of us who drive have probably done many times. Shreya Dixit was cut out of the car, helicoptered to the nearest hospital where she died shortly after arrival.

A Police spokesperson from City of Eden Prairie, Minnesota in the video said that in 80% of crashes, distraction often of less than 3 seconds was a factor.

The book doesn’t just talk about their experience and loss, but also how they found help to deal with the grief and how they turned that into a mission, a foundation which talks to children at schools, helps people who either were the driver that killed someone, or the victims.

There is so much new evidence out now about our ability to focus and multi-task. When we first learned to drive, we were taught to monitor the road in all directions looking for cars pulling out, looking for animals crossing the road or kids getting off a school bus. We had to be really focused and it made sense. As years go on our children don’t see things quite the same way, or they have an overestimated belief of their ability to multitask. I have family members who in the past used to think it was nothing, sending a text message on a quiet stretch of road.

But as the book describes, you have one or both hands on the phone, you are thinking about what you are going to write, you start keying it in and then you are thinking about the response. Your brain deals with all of these things in a linear fashion. It is very capable, but it completes a task and replays or ponders on it  before starting on the next one. Our limbic brain (I’m sure someone will tell me if I got that wrong) has muscle memory and can perform basic tasks while we do these things like keeping the car on the road. But should a baby pram suddenly race down a driveway, or a kid chasing his football, while you are sending a text message and driving at 40 miles and hour and their chances of getting away are slim.

The book outlines many of the things that we do and I’m going to share a few. Using the concept of ‘Workload rating’ which is effectively about how much of your brain power is used during certain activities. A rating of one means your m ind is already fully occupied. This was researched and compiled by David Strayer a Cognitive Neuroscientist at the University of Utah.

  1. Single passenger driving. 1 x WR (workload rating), i.e fully occupied in order to drive safely and be ready for that car coming round the corner on the wrong side of the road, the red light runner, or someone just reaching into their pocket to get and light a cigarette, or perhaps spilled their hot coffee or for the Kiwis and Aussies, a very hot meat pie on their lap.
  2. Changing the station on your radio is 1.21. Not too  risky, but take in-car entertainment systems, the music on your Smartphone, a service like Spottily (which I use in my car a lot of the time) and other systems where you might be searching for an artist or scrolling to find your favorite song. That is way more than 1.21 isn’t it?
  3. Listening to an audio book on Tape, CD or podcast. I do this a lot too. I listen to all sorts of leadership, special interest and educational podcasts. I’ve done this ever since they first came out on tape. After all with today’s traffic congestion, I spend around 500 hours a year going to the office or the airport every year. That’s 12 and a half working days! That comes to 1.75 working units, because I’m not only listening to the book, I’m cogitating, looking at ways that I can use the knowledge I’m gaining, perhaps leadership skills or more specialized topics. The more complex, the more thought you need. I suffer from cancer fatigue so I have learned not to listen to anything like this when I’m driving home from work, because the risk is too high that I could be oblivious to the Harley Davidson’s lane splitting on each side of the car, or the guy next to me who s swerving because he is chasing Pokemon at the wheel.
  4. The next one might surprise you and that is talking to the passenger in the car next to you. The passenger is looking at me (generally trying to look at my eyes, while I’m driving and I feel rude f I don’t periodically look back. That comes in at 2.33.
  5. Using a handheld cell phone is rated at 2.45. That’s pretty obvious. Remember though we are talking about mental focus requirements here. This isn’t about the fact that you have one or maybe one and a half hands on the steering wheel. It is the focus you are placing on the phone call. Ever noticed when someone was talking on the phone and you ask them a question, they possibly don’t even hear you. When you are on the phone your brain is working hard. You are thinking about the implications of the call, maybe your wife with things she wants you to pick up on the way home, your boss talking about work matters, someone telling you about their relationship problems. You are now putting way more energy into the phone than you are on the drive. Next time you are engaged in a  phone call (not while driving!) see if you can monitor what else you are doing. Do your eyes roll up to the top right hand corner, around 2 o’clock, you’re listening, you may be problem solving, trying to think of ways to help someone, you might be engrossed in a funny story or some family gossip, or worse, perhaps hearing about a family accident or illness or other bad news.
  6. Hands Free Phone. I stopped using mine, mostly for the reasons above. It was better than Siri. If I tell it to call home or my wife, it does that, rather than Siri that tends to make a phone call to a random number when I ask it to set a reminder or save a memo, which I have also stopped doing. So a hands-free phone is still 2.27 working units, only slightly better than holding the phone. I now don’t make or answer calls in the car unless there is an urgent reason, such as having just driven past a serous car accident that hasn’t been attended by emergency services, but I’m not in a position, perhaps i the wrong lane, to stop.
  7. Speech to text is really interesting and at a high of 3.06. I guess it is because you really have to concentrate on listening because often the voice is not well developed or in an accent you are not familiar with. I trialed an email speech to text solution which seemed like a great way to cut down the workload before I got to the office. The problem was that I had to tell it whether to save the message or archive it. The problem was that many of my emails are complex in nature and therefore require a lot of concentration. Sure I’m not reading, but I am certainly taking a lot of attention off my driving.

The list can go on, but I think the points are well made. We don’t intentionally put ourselves at risk (unless we are at that adolescent pubescent age where nature has decided that it wants us to take risks). Statistics show that adolescents are pretty good drivers on their own, but get their mates in the car and they are 50% more likely to have a accident. Adults also have more crashes when they have passengers, which links back to  item 4. above. The conversation. You could potentially reduce that risk, simply by saying, I don’t want to be rude and am enjoying your company and the conversation, but want to keep my eyes on the road.

Most mornings when I drive to work I see people eating their yogurt, shaving, putting on their lippy, looking up and down at their lap (yeah right, must be very interesting)  or overtly using their mobiles, having a great chinwag with their passengers, customers, reaching for something in their glove-box or that they dropped on the floor and so much more.

The fact is we have all done or do so many things like this and we have all, I’m sure, had close misses either caused by ourselves, or by another motorist. We call them accidents, but are they really?

onesplitsecondRead the book and the testimony including from some people who through their distraction have effectively killed someone, often a family member or their best friend. We see those stories on the news pretty much every day. The book A Split Second which I am reading on my Kindle is well written and has cleared up a lot of misnomers for me and is changing my behavior with some reluctance I may add.

I live in New Zealand and we have many crashes where people were either fatigued or distracted. A lot of our roads are narrow and winding, with hills where there is very little visibility of cars, trucks, stray animals or even flocks of sheep or cattle, where Shreya Dixit died on a long straight road. It’s the end of the school holidays and a lot of Kiwis are heading home with cars full of tired grumpy children (it rained just about right through the whole 2 weeks) and bored kids on road trips can be very distracting for the driver as any parent knows.

Chances are someone in New Zealand will die due to distracted or fatigued (which causes distraction) driving this weekend. US statistics from last year say that this weekend 18 people WILL DIE due to driver distraction. Imagine if that was one of your loved ones, your child, your brother or sister, one or both of your parents. How will you get over that, will you ever get over that? If you are the person who died, how do you think your family and close friends will cope with it?

Again I commend the book to you, it will surprise, shock and please you. It should change your life and I’m sure will save many people’s lives.

Don’t become a statistic, drive safe, be patient, be alert. If you need to make a phone call or something else, stop, or let a passenger deal with it. No phone call or text is worth your life.

As always I welcome comments.

Posted in accidents, car accidents, distracted driving, distracted pedestrians, DistractedDriving, driver distraction, driving, Motoring, safer driving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you a rubbernecker?

Ever wonder why it takes you so long to get home on the freeway when the crash is going in the other direction? 

It never ceases to amaze me how many people just need a quick loopy look. Just a second is all they need and they’ll be satisfied.

Tell me you’ve never done it.

Surely a little look won’t matter?

Don’t worry folks, there’s nothing to see hUere, Oh well there wasn’t!

Need I say more?

How do we change people’s innate need to know what’s going on?

Posted in accidents, car accidents, car crash, Crash, distracted driving, DistractedDriving, rubberneckers | 1 Comment