The North Island

With only 7 days to see New Zealand, I elected to only visit the north island on this trip flying into Wellington and out of Auckland at the end of my week. I was joined by two fellow frisbee players from Toronto, Kat and Jess. I flew in a few days after them so they already had a car rented and picked me up from the airport upon my arrival.

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In case you are unaware the kiwis drive on the left side of the road compared to the right side I am used to at home. The setup inside the car for the driver has the turn signal and windshield wipers switched. The running joke is you see a tourist coming a mile away because they always turn the wipers on instead of the turn signals. After the first day of driving you get the hang of doing everything opposite while traveling in traffic. The tough part comes when you approach an intersection or parking lot where your natural instincts kick in trying to get you killed. Thankfully I only attempted to kill us all once when leaving a parking lot and turning into the oncoming lane at 11:30 P.M. when there was one car on the road. Whoops.

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The first night in NZ was dedicated to traveling north from Wellington to Porangahau for the Hat Tournament. As it would turn out this weekend was the last long weekend of the NZ summer but traffic was for the most part non-existent. The roads in NZ do not ever follow a straight line. Period. Fact. Every journey you take is an 50 – 70 KPM journey of winding blind corners and hills. It’s like rally car driving to get to the corner store when all you need is a lottery ticket. Don’t get me wrong, driving along the cliff edge with panoramic views was thrilling. After our multi hour journey with multiple stops we arrived at our destination, a working sheep and cattle farm, after 11 P.M. and hunkered down for the night. During our two days on the farm we were treated to some great ultimate, a great Saturday night party, and we were able to visit the longest named place in the world. On the Sunday we headed out after the final awards were handed out and everyone had showered. Our goal was to make it to Cape Kidnappers and catch a glimpse of the golf course before sun down.

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We arrived at Cape Kidnappers Golf Course with only an hour of light left. We arrived at the perimeter gate to find out that it was another 20 minute drive to the clubhouse. We finally arrived at the clubhouse to discover that the club was closed for the day. I didn’t fly all the way to NZ and drive an hour out of our way to not see the course. With no one around but the three of us, we walked to the coast line where the course and cliffs meet. This view was completely worth the trip and I doubt I would have been able to enjoy the course as much as I did had it been “open” when we arrived. Once the sun had set we all jumped back in the car and set out to find a place to stay for the night. We chose to try for the town of Rotorua as it was recommend to us based on our plans for the next couple of days. After driving until the early hours of the morning I discovered that I had just piloted us about 2 hours past our planned adventure for the Monday. I was more than a little displeased at this point because I like being accurate and sticking to the laid out plan. I requested a road map from the hotel front desk to avoid running into this type of boondoggle again.

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We woke up on the later side of things and used Monday as a recovery day. Rotorua is a volcanic town surrounded by many hot springs that were very active. We plotted some places to visit around town and along the way to our next overnight in Turangi. First was the local park which had some smelly, muddy, bubbly hot springs for us to sniff and gag at. Next up was a short ride to Waiotapu Themeral Wonderland. This place is what I expect mars will be like once colonized. There are craters, extreme colours in the water pools, barren landscapes, and a random forest in the middle of it all. All in all an interesting spot to visit and a nice leisurely paced attraction. After the thermals we headed for lake Taupo to try and catch an afternoon cruise to see the Maori Rock Carvings. We made the journey with minutes to spare and were able to book a trip on a yacht take us out on a nice cruise across rather choppy waters. A short 30 minute ride out to the carvings gave us great light to view the piece and enjoy a nice leisurely cruise back to port. We enjoyed dinner in town before heading out to Turangi and our accommodations for the evening.

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Turangi is the town closest to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We arrived at our hostel for the night and we were given advice on crossing by the owner. We agreed that we would split up for the 19.4 KM journey and complete the hike in opposite directions. The reason we split up was to ensure we would not have to pay any shuttle fees to get back to the car at the end of the hike. I would complete the hike from west to east and the ladies would stick together completing the hike east to west as recommended by the hostel owner. The most important part of this plan was the hand off of the car key and I almost forgot to pick up the car key from the ladies. Thankfully Jess was paying attention and handed over the prized key during our meeting around the 11 KM marker. I completed the journey in about 5 hours and 15 minutes with all of my up hill climbs out of the way in the first 9 KM of my hike. The reverse hike for the ladies was much more difficult as their journey was an uphill fight for a longer period of time and across tougher terrain. I met the girls with car back where I had started my day and we were all tired from our hikes. We headed into Turangi to get some wifi and plan our next day’s adventure and find a place to sleep for the night. We agreed to return to the town of Rotorua for the night and stay in a hostel there before heading out to Matamata and Auckland the next day. Our journey to our Rotorua hostel was uneventful with the hostel almost uninhabited upon our arrival with only two other cars in the parking lot.

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Our last final full day on the north island began with a short journey to the outskirts of the town of Matamata, also know as Hobbiton. The girls had signed up for a tour of the hobbit village, grounds, and working farm. I dropped them off for their tour and headed to the opposite side of town to catch a glimpse of the highest waterfall in NZ, Wairere Falls. This set of falls is 153M and a different style of waterfall than I am used. Niagara Falls is a horseshoe style falls with a high water flow crashing over the edge every minute. Wairere is a skinny cascading waterfall with the water following many different paths down to the bottom. I spent a short amount of time at the falls before returning to pick up the girls from their Hobbiton adventure. They raved about being whisked away into an alternate universe and loved the adventure. We piled into our trusty car and headed into Matamata for lunch before making the trek up to Auckland. The journey from lunch to Auckland was smooth until we hit our first bit of NZ traffic entering the Auckland city limits. It would appear that NZ does have traffic every now and then. We hacked our way into town and found our accommodation for the night. After dropping off our bags, we parked the car for the night, and headed out to the Sky Tower to catch the sunset from the 60th floor. We were treated to a lovely colourful sky and were able to see the city night lights come up before heading down to the wharf for an evening stroll that led us back to our hostel. We packed our bags for our upcoming flight before calling it a night.

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Our final morning in NZ only required us to return the rental car before checking in for our flight to Hawaii. Kat and myself were continuing on to Oahu and Jess was on her way to Thailand. What should have been an uneventful drive got way too interesting way too fast. On the way to the drop off location the car starting making a loud squealing sound whenever the wheels were turning. And to our relief the sound disappeared without warning just as it appeared. I still have no idea what that noise was and I’m glad that it stopped before we got anywhere near the drop off location because it was as loud as someone using a stone cutting saw. A short shuttle to the airport and a quick check in process left me with enough time to embrace my inner hobbit before I left with a second breakfast.

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My trip to New Zealand was great. I think I enjoy driving on the left side of the road better than the right, the terrain really dictates how fast you can make a journey between each city, the landscapes are beautiful, the ocean is cold but clean, the sun is extremely powerful, and the positives go on. The biggest downside for me was the price point of many items but that can easily be overlooked. I would like to return one day with more time and have a chance to visit the south island as I hear it is even more beautiful than the north.

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Facebook Kills Four Youths on the DVP: An essay analyzing social media and distracted driving

Within the first seven weeks of 2012, nine people in Ontario have been killed on the roads due to distracted driving (CBC, 2012). Distracted driving has been the number one killer on Ontario roads in 2012 to date, accounting for more deaths than drunk driving and speeding collision combine (CBC, 2012). The Ontario Regulation 366/09 under the Highway Traffic Act, a restriction on display screens and hand-held devices, has been enforced in Ontario since February 1, 2010. This law was put in place to counter distracted driving in Ontario and to help stop the rising number of distracted driving auto collisions and reduce the risk of driving on Ontario roads (Bradley, 2009). This Highway Traffic Act needs to be enforced with greater consistency and frequency, as the consequences are too costly to overlook.

There are many forms of distracted driving including eating while driving, changing the radio dial while driving, or fidgeting with your GPS. This essay argues that social media is a distraction tool that has many negative side effects while driving. It examines recent research, which supports the conclusion that the use of social media tools while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. This essay will also outline some examples of dangerous driving behaviours that are the result of using social media tools.

It is a fact that people between the ages 16 and 24 are the highest users of social media. It has also been proven that texting is a dangerous task to perform while driving as drivers that take their eyes of the road for more than two seconds are four times more likely to be involved in a collision (J.K. Caird, 2008). A similar study shows that 81.5% of undergraduate students have texted while driving and understand that they endanger themselves and all others using the road when they use social media while driving (Chris S. Dula, 2011).

This is where stronger enforcement can play a role in preventing distracted driving collisions. Drivers in Ontario that show little regard for the safety of themselves and others on the road, including their own passengers, should be charged the full $155 fine with no exceptions. Regulation 366/09 should also include a repeat offender clause that would have the offender’s license suspended for 30 days. Participants said strict laws and monetary penalties would reduce their texting while driving (Chris S. Dula, 2011). The unsettling news is these drivers already exhibit dangerous driving behaviours combined while using social media as the survey also revealed that drivers who used social media were going at least 10 mph over the posted speed limit (Chris S. Dula, 2011).

In North Carolina, lawmakers established the graduated license program in attempt to instill safe driving habits at the beginning of every new driver’s career. Unfortunately, the study out of North Carolina suggested that implementing a temporary cellphone restriction on drivers has little to no effect on youth (R.D. Foss, 2009). Students at a high school were observed 2 months before the new law was introduced and documented at 11% usage of cellphones while driving. Even after the law was enacted and enforced, student usage of cellphones while driving remained at 11%. However, five months after the law was enacted students verbally reported that their cell phone usage had decreased during driving (R.D. Foss, 2009). This idea of limiting cellphone use during the early stage of anyone’s driving career should instill good habits into the driver and prevent them from being distracted behind the wheel. This idea needs to be implemented across more areas and documented to greater detail to determine the effectiveness of this restriction. The survey also mentioned that more research is required to determine the lasting effects of this type of law.

In Australia, a study asked drivers about their distracting behaviours while operating a motor vehicle and 60% of participants said they used a cellphone while driving (K. L. Young, 2010). This study also found that young drivers were significantly more likely to engage in distracting activities more than any other age group (K. L. Young, 2010). 84% of the participants agreed that they are less safe drivers while engaged in distracting activities (K. L. Young, 2010), which supports the previous notion that this demographic is aware of their unsafe driving habits. The participants also stated that it was unlikely that a driver would be caught using a cellphone (K. L. Young, 2010). Overall, the majority of participants said they would continue to use their cellphones while driving even though they are completely aware of the dangers and understand that cellphone use while driving is illegal.

A common theme that sticks out in the studies conducted by P. Malikhao 2011, R.D. Foss 2009, and K. L. Young 2010, is the complete disregard from youth regarding the dangers of using social media tools while driving and their resulting consequences. Youth appear to not care about their own safety while driving as they repeatedly use social tools while driving. These studies highlight the need for the government to enforce this law with greater frequency and more consistency to protect all drivers on the roads from reckless drivers. If drivers cannot control their use of social media while driving, they do not deserve a license to operate a motor vehicle.

Next, let us look at the consequences of distracted driving. In 2007, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed an article on the effects of using a cellphone while driving. This article concluded that talking on a cellphone would cause an accident four times more often than not talking on a cellphone (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2007). The article also concluded that cellphone use is the second most likely distraction to cause an accident (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2007). It should be no surprise that distracted driving due to social media is a dangerous habit. Other sources, including CBC News (2012), have reported similar statistics of distracted driving causing death at an alarmingly high rate.

Across Canada and the United States, distracted driving laws are being enacted and enforced to reduce distracted driving. Many of these laws include the restriction of hand-held devices and encouraging the use of hands-free devices. The Ontario distracted driving law includes this hands-free clause to allow its motorist to use their cellphones to call or text while driving. However, in 2009, the journal of safety research concluded that hands-free cellphone use is not a safe practice (Y. Ishigami, 2009). This type of cellphone use has the same dangers as hand-held cellphone use (Y. Ishigami, 2009). It was surprising to discover that drivers who were abiding by the local laws and used a hands-free device were documented as not showing the same concern and caution for the road compared to when drivers were physically holding the cellphone (Y. Ishigami, 2009). This research also concluded that drivers using a cellphone have a 38% higher risk of being in an accident over drivers who do not use a cellphone while driving (Y. Ishigami, 2009). These findings should lead the government to ban the use of cellphones while driving and not limit the use to a hands-free method.

In 2010, there was an estimated 285-million cellphone connections in the United States (Chris S. Dula, 2011). In 2002, an estimated 60% of drivers used cellphones while driving (Chris S. Dula, 2011) and this number has surely risen over the last 10 years. The focus of the study was to determine the amount of distraction from a phone call and it was concluded that the greater the emotional level of a conversation, the greater the amount of distraction from driving (Chris S. Dula, 2011). This study was not concerned with the differentiating the effects of hand-held versus hands-free devices, but rather the effects of the phone conversation itself. The study showed that any level of emotional stimulation can cause a distraction and thus supports the notion that drivers should not be using any form of cellphone communication while driving.

In 2006, D.L. Strayer, F.A. Drews, and D.J. Crouch, collaborated on a study comparing drunk drivers to drivers that use cellphones while driving. The study included 40 adults, each with a valid driver’s license, who were asked to operate a computer simulated vehicle in a controlled environment while distracted with either a cellphone or alcohol. Cellphone impaired drivers followed the vehicle in front of them at a further distance than the baseline but got into more accidents than the drunk drivers doing the same simulation (D.L. Strayer, 2006). The study also concluded that hands-free device legislations are not likely to eliminate the risks associated while driving and using a cellphone (D.L. Strayer, 2006). This study has been a strong source for governments to implement a distracted driver’s law in their country. The statistics from this study are overwhelming in proving that social media and cellphone use while driving is amongst the most dangerous driving habits.

The best way to reduce the risk of social media killing on roads is to create a universal law banning the use of social media while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers need to be educated on the dangers of using social media tools while driving through the implementation of laws and from hearing personal stories of people who have been affected by these deadly collisions.

In conclusion, social media tools should not be used at any point while operating a motor vehicle, as the consequences are deadly. Unfortunately, distracted driving is on the rise and has been reported as more deadly than drunk driving and speeding deaths combined (CBC, 2012). Governments need to take action now and make changes to the existing distracted driving laws before social media claims more lives. Ultimately, the real control factor is the driver choosing to not use social media tools while operating their vehicle. This unsafe habit can be changed with stronger enforcement.

Works Cited

Bradley, J. (2009, September 29). Highway Traffic Act – Ontario Legislation 366/09. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from E-Laws: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/…/elaws_src_regs_r09366_e.htm

CBC. (2012, March 1). Distracted driving is the leading cause of road deaths. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/03/01/toronto-distracted-driving.html

Chris S. Dula, B. A. (2011). Differing types of cellular phone conversations and dangerous driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention , 43 (1), 187-193.

D.L. Strayer, F. D. (2006). A comparison of the cell phone driver and the drunk driver. Human Factors , 48 (2), 381-391.

J.E.B. Tornros, A. B. (2005). Mobile phone use – Effects of handhel and handsfree phones on driving performance. Accident Analysis & Prevention , 37 (5), 902-909.

J.K. Caird, C. W. (2008). A meta analysis of the ffects of cell phones driver performance. Accident Analysis & Prevention , 40, 1282-1293.

K. L. Young, M. L. (2010). Driver engagement in distracting activities and the strategies used to minimise the risk. Safety Science , 48 (3), 326-332.

K.H. Beck, F. Y. (2007, September 6). Cell phone users, reported crash risk, unsafe driving behaviour and dispositions: A survey of Maryland motorists. Journal of Safety Research , 683-688.

L. Korpinen, R. P. (2012). Accidents and close call situations connected to the use of mobile phones. Accident Analysis & Prevention , 45, 75-82.

Patchanee Malikhao, J. S. (2011). The media use of American youngsters in the age of narcissism – Surviving in a 24/7 media shock and awe – distracted by everything. Telematics and Informatics , 66-76.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (2007, September 23). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Under the influence, driving while talking on cell phones – hand-held or hands free – is like driving drunk .

R.D. Foss, A. G. (2009). Short-term effects of a teenager driver cell phone restriction. Accident Analysis & Prevention , 41 (3), 419-424.

Y. Ishigami, R. K. (2009). Is a hands-free phone safer than a handheld phone? Journal of Safety Research , 40 (2), 157-164.