Bull­dust DEAN MEL­LOR

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

IREG­U­LARLY drive from my home base in the ’Gong down the Hume High­way to Mel­bourne. Over the years this trip has be­come eas­ier and eas­ier, though it has also be­come more and more bor­ing. Sure, wide dual-car­riage­way free­ways are a more ef­fi­cient and safer way of mov­ing lots of traf­fic around than old two-lane high­ways, but Aus­tralia’s dra­co­nian speed­ing laws make free­way driv­ing one of the most tire­some and bor­ing pur­suits a mo­torist could ever face.

The other day 4X4 Aus­tralia deputy ed­i­tor Justin Walker and I had to do the run down the dreaded Doom to Mel­bourne. Justin was kind enough to pick me up at spar­row’s fart in Wol­lon­gong and, af­ter a 30-minute run along Pic­ton Road, we found our­selves head­ing south down the Hume High­way. Want­ing the jour­ney to fin­ish be­fore it had even be­gun, we thought we’d bet­ter push the en­ve­lope, so to speak, so I cracked open the ‘Speedome­ter’ app on my iphone and set the cruise con­trol to around nine per cent over the posted limit. Af­ter all, there’s a ru­mour of a 10 per cent tol­er­ance in NSW and we thought we’d take full ad­van­tage of it.

While this ‘10 per cent tol­er­ance’ has never been con­firmed by the NSW po­lice, a speedo er­ror of 10 per cent used to be writ­ten into the Aus­tralian De­sign Rules well be­fore GPS tech­nol­ogy could pro­vide a more ac­cu­rate way for the av­er­age punter to con­firm their ve­loc­ity. We saw a cou­ple of cops on the run down to the Vic­to­rian bor­der and, de­spite our pos­si­bly dodgy in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what speed is ac­cept­able to the boys (and girls) in blue in NSW, they left us alone to carry on our merry way.

Other than speed-lim­ited trucks, I reckon more than 50 per cent of the traf­fic on the Hume High­way that day agreed with our syn­op­sis of just how fast you can go with­out be­ing pulled over – some were a lit­tle more pes­simistic while oth­ers were far more op­ti­mistic, and we spot­ted a cou­ple of ve­hi­cles that must have been bar­rel­ing along at a dol­lar thirty or more. De­spite the speed dis­crep­ancy be­tween ve­hi­cles, or per­haps be­cause of it, ev­ery­one seemed to hap­pily travel along the free­way in safety and with­out in­ci­dent. Then we reached the Vic­to­rian bor­der. It’s well-known that in Vic­to­ria the po­lice have zero tol­er­ance for speed­ing driv­ers, even if they’re only a smidge over the limit, by just one or two kilo­me­tres per hour. So, once we crossed the Mighty Mur­ray we backed the Disco 5km/h off and set our speed at the posted limit, again us­ing the GPS in the phone to more ac­cu­rately mea­sure ve­loc­ity (as an aside, the Disco’s speedo was op­ti­mistic by around six per cent). Ev­ery­one around us, also aware of the zero-tol­er­ance at­ti­tude south of the bor­der, did like­wise, re­sult­ing in what I re­fer as the Vic­to­rian Shuf­fle.

The Vic­to­rian Shuf­fle is where all the cars, buses and trucks on the free­way are trav­el­ling at al­most ex­actly the same speed. Of course, there will be tiny vari­a­tions in speed be­tween ve­hi­cles, which will re­sult in some of them try­ing to pass oth­ers. The trou­ble is that try­ing to pass an­other ve­hi­cle when you’re only trav­el­ling 1km/h faster can take a very, very long time and, as a re­sult, you can end up with groups of ve­hi­cles all trav­el­ling in close packs at very sim­i­lar but slightly dif­fer­ent speeds.

In other words, the Vic­to­rian Shuf­fle, where ev­ery­one is scared of ex­ceed­ing the speed limit by even the tini­est amount, re­sults in ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling in close prox­im­ity for longer pe­ri­ods of time. Ob­vi­ously, the closer and longer ve­hi­cles are to each other, the greater chance of an ac­ci­dent, ei­ther through the lack of phys­i­cal dis­tance be­tween ve­hi­cles or pent-up driver frus­tra­tion.

Yep, the Vic­to­rian Shuf­fle sucks, and it’s about time the pow­ers that be rein­tro­duced a bit of tol­er­ance when it comes to speed­ing in Vic­to­ria. Not too much, of course, be­cause as we’ve all been told “Speed Kills”, but just enough to put some sep­a­ra­tion be­tween ve­hi­cles once again. And, at the very least, the cop­pers down south should be able to use their dis­cre­tion when it comes to book­ing driv­ers for speed­ing.

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