P plate legal cars in Australia
The P plate car restrictions in Australia can be rather complicated, as the...
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Oh, the countryside, isn't it wonderful, and green and red and brown and wide and… empty? And isn't it a wondrous place to drive, at least until you encounter the people who live there, clogging up its roads the way that unwisely large servings of red meat clog up a bowel?
It's tempting, yet illogical, to think that country folk sit in their driveways all day, rubbing their hard and calloused hands together and hoping that some city-slickers will make the mistake of attempting to drive through their shire at the speed limit, or even close to it, just so they can pull out in front of them - slowly of course - and proceed to suck their will to live from them as surely as an episode of Farmer Wants a Life (or Wife, same same).
But clearly that’s not the case, and it's important to try and see driving, and drivers, from the Country vs City perspective. Country folk aren't in any hurry to get anywhere, ever. When they have to be somewhere they know exactly how long it will take and, frankly, driving is a languorous and lovely holiday from the drudgery of actually working, hard, with their hands.
The problem, really, is not just the way country drivers drive, but the fact people who aren't from the wide open spaces don't understand the way they roll, or how slowly they like to do so.
Here, then, is a helpful list of the kind of drivers you're likely to encounter once you venture past the city limits and into that vast, open space that Australians like to call 'the bush'.
Yes, that's right, city slicker, our here we can, and will, drive tractors on the road, even if the have got a 30km/h maximum speed. What's your hurry, anyway?
It might seem cruel and unusual, but the reason the farmer in front of you has decided to take his multi-tonne tractor, covered in dogs and dust, out on the open road is that that’s probably the only way to get it from one vast tract of his land to the next.
And, no, he doesn't care that you're stuck behind him (this is an essential tenet of country drivers, so get used to it), and nor can he see that you are, because wing mirrors are not an essential part of farm machinery.
He's going to sit there, all day if necessary, to get where he's going, and all you can really do is be thankful that you live here, in Australia, with its wide open overtaking areas, rather than England, with its stupidly narrow country lanes, bricked up on either side, where being stuck behind a tractor means you’re better off seeing if you can find the bustle in a hedgerow Led Zeppelin was going on about, than thinking you'll ever get past.
The tractor driver - or header, or whatever other heavy-metal machine happens to need to be on the road that day - isn’t evil, or out to get you. He’s just doing his job, and if you were a country person like him, you’d understand, and sit behind him in patient, quiet contemplation for an hour or two.
No, not Barnaby Joyce, but someone very much like him (although Barnaby no doubt does enjoy a bit of slow driving when he’s in the country). The Big Hat wearer is your typical farmer, who'd much rather be in his battered old Land Rover Defender, or bent and yet unbroken Toyota truck, crawling across a paddock, but is stuck, on this particular occasion, in his Town Car, which is almost certainly an older Holden Commodore (Statesman if he's a cotton farmer) or Ford Falcon (Fairmont or LTD if he's had a few good seasons).
He is wearing his hat at the wheel partly to warn you that he's a Count-ry Driver, and thus about as likely to hurry as he is to grow a hipster beard and order a soy latte with a shot of wheatgrass, and partly because he would feel inappropriately naked without it.
For this particular breed of driver, speed limits are just that; limits, and thus something that should never, ever be approached. In any given 80km/h zone, he (or she) will feel completely comfortable doing 50km/h, or less, and will view anyone who wants to go faster as some kind of sick sociopath, who needs to calm down.
And indeed, this is what you might look like in his/her rear-view mirror, as you froth at the mouth and swear loudly about how the hell anyone can low-ball the limit so vastly and not give up the will to live. All you can do is overtake, when safe, and be sure not to make eye contact, because they will look horrified.
I have personal experience of this, because my grandfather was a hat-loving, snail like un-enthusiast when it came to driving, and could turn a 30km journey into a two-hour extravaganza that would have me climbing the doors of his car, and screaming in frustration. Fortunately he was hugely deaf by the time I started to realise how odd and infuriating his driving was.
The other important thing to remember about country drivers, when you come across them, is what a fine old time they're having. For a lot of farm residents, or even country-townsfolk, driving is something of a novelty.
We tend to think of the people in the outback driving vast distances, and it's true that they do, when they need to go to town for supplies, or to run a cake raffle in support of One Nation or its predecessor, the National Party, but the fact is they really don’t drive those distances very often.
Compare that to city dwellers, who fight the battle on our roads on a daily basis from Monday to Friday, and then saddle up again for the genuine hell that is Saturdays, and it’s quite a contrast.
So, if you're in the country on a weekend, or a Sunday in particular, you have to be prepared to be stuck behind someone who only drives once a week, if that, and does so with a sense of both trepidation and wonder.
Without sexist-ly profiling, this is a day on which a lot of farmer's wives might venture into town, and, if they've recently bought a new car, might spend some time at traffic lights in an absolute panic, freaking out that the vehicle in question has turned itself off when the pull up to a stop, and thus seems to be broken, but then turns itself on again when they make a panicked stab at the throttle.
The Sunday Driver is, like so many in the country, in no hurry at all, much like a man driving to his vasectomy appointment, and thus can be extremely frustrating to sit behind. Once again, posted speed limits are merely notional in the country, and may seem extreme and, frankly, dangerous, to the local residents.
Be prepared, also, for them to take a long, long time to make right-hand turns, or to proceed through a Give Way or Stop sign, or even to accelerate away once a traffic light has turned green.
Try and think of it this way. You might be in a hurry, but they're just excited to be out at all, and the longer it takes, the more they can enjoy it. Just try and soak up how beautifully dressed they are, in their Sunday best, and, no doubt, how impressive their hats are.
Patience. It's a country thing. They have lots of it, perhaps the entire share that could possibly have gone to city dwellers, but didn't. What this means in practice is that overtaking, in the country, is seen as not only unnecessary but, frankly, more than a little rude.
So when you’re stuck behind that tractor, hat wearer or Sunday driver, you might well be stuck behind a train of locals as well, all of whom will be quite happy to sit behind them and wait until hell freezes over, or Donald Trump grows a conscience, whichever one never comes first. What they won't do, ever, is overtake, because that's just unnecessary big-city behaviour.
Once again, it's important to remember that country people aren't, as a rule, in a massive hurry to get anywhere. The unkind might say this is because one day is much like another, and the cows will still be there to be fed/milked whenever they get home, but whatever the reason, they are not about to be overcome by stress and forced into a silly, unnecessary, or even what you might call necessary manoeuvre.
This is part of the reason Rear-Enders, which are a huge factor in inner-city crashes, are simply less common in the country. They don’t tailgate, because there’s no need. Both they and the car in front will get there when they’re good and ready. And the cows can wait.
There is, of course, an exception to every rule, and is often the case with human beings, it is the young, or at least teenage, driver who stands out.
Risk-taking behaviour is, sadly, hard-wired into the brains of adolescents, and males in particular, and the young boy who has access to a car - or a tractor or a big ol’ utility - in the country is just as likely to drive like a total dick as his city cousin.
Beware these speed-hungry maniacs with their P plates when in the country, because they are just as likely to do something silly as the youngsters in the city, but they have more room to build up speed, far less fear of cops or speed cameras, and far more trees to run into.