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Opinion: "Predator Driving Culture" Questioned

"Predator Driving Culture" Questioned

By Scoop Reader Bruce Thomson

Have you noticed the growing culture of intimidation by vehicle? Let's consider noisemaking, then look at other ways you are being 'preyed on'...


Harassing noises

- Modified mufflers that are 'thunderous'
People viscerally associate the loud noises with thunder, storms, discomfort, danger, injuries and death. The driver makes the loud noise intrude into our personal space. This causes unease, and disrupts conversations so that we are divided from each other.

- Modified mufflers that 'snarl' or 'growl'
These sounds associate the vehicle and its driver with familiar sounds of animals fighting or killing their prey. Again, the sound intrudes, subliminally terrorizes, and divides us.

- Startling 'hiss' noises from blow-off valves operating during gear changes
The ear is very sensitive to the high frequency hiss noise, especially at such high volume. It startles people nearby. There is probably an unconscious association with some very dangerous animal sounds from wild cats and snakes in the media and in real life.

- Squealing tyres
Even done playfully, these sounds are the same as those associated with collisions, screams of great pain, injuries, death, and the following grief. The sounds therefore excite and alarm those who hear them, especially if the sounds are imposed without warning or understanding or the cause.

- Boom-box stereos
From public media experiences, the ear-bashing thump is associated with closeness to jungle drumming, war beats, and even cannibalism. The physics of this low frequency sound are that it spread out much further, intruding into more personal space, giving domination over more people.


Predator vehicles

Many vehicles seem now to have gone far beyond the 'powerful sporty' look, and are being presented as decidedly malevolent.

The 'powerful sporty' styling first overflowed from the competitive motorsports venues into our downtown streets and neighbourhoods. This brought vehicles that went way past the functionality of mobility. It saw vastly more engine power, lowered suspension, racing tyres and hubs for fast cornering, aerofoils on the boot, airflow skirts round the base, racing stripes, vehicle labelling and other high-speed detailing to boast power and speed.

But now look how this is extending into more 'domineering' features:

- Visual design of vehicle body and 'face'
There are now vehicles that combine features like predator 'eyes' (shaped headlights), bull-terrier 'snout' (bonnet), 'muscular' fenders, and bull-bar grills.

- Shining spokes
There is a big fad for shining, jagged 'teeth-like' wheel spokes. I've wondered whether the hugely famous Hollywood scene from the movie 'Ben Hur' is being copied. (The villain's chariot had wheels with spinning knives to chew into the hero's chariot wheels. I have even seen this famous moment on TV this week, forty five years after the release of the movie, which is still in most video stores.) The wheel trim culture is so strong that I have a copy of an Palmerston North advert that sells sets of four wheels with tyres, for a thousand dollars each wheel. Is that buying aluminium and rubber, or copycat culture?

- Predator anonymity and stealth
In contrast to most normal vehicles, we see tinted windows, wrap-around sunglasses, and hoods concealing faces, to hide the identity of driver and passengers. They are not as easily accountable to others for their driving behaviour. The registration plate is a helpful reconnection with the rest of us who share the cost of roading and hospitals, etc.

- Slogans and logos
I have photos of windscreens and paintwork, with words like such as 'Reaper', 'Havoc', and logos of snarling animals. Skulls and death too. (Is it our skulls and death or theirs? Whose?)

- High wheelbase vehicles and high handlebar motorcycles
These put the driver overpoweringly 'above' others in the classic predatory positions of the 'bigger' beast or bird of prey. Suggested responses


What are we to do?

The predatory instinct is in all of us, as a vital means of protecting our families and culture. The trouble is when it misguidedly turns in on the same families and culture, becoming harassment.

Here are some suggestions:

- Articulate to the public the fantasy-predatory driving that we are being subjected to.

- Redirect that predatory aggressiveness into healthy physical sports where participants at least give personal consent to the conflict and injuries involved.

- Connect it all with road safety. Use the warrant of fitness to prevent antisocial modification of vehicles.

- Where possible, try to 'include' into the community even those striving fiercely for independent uniqueness. Reassert family and community as the real foundation of happiness, so it becomes 'uncool' to prey on us.


Bruce Thomson hails from Palmerston North

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