Matters of Moment, April 1964
With the welcome arrival of longer evenings, later lighting-up, this only just scrapes in as a matter of any moment. It arises out of an earnest attempt by the Birmingham Dipped Headlamps Committee to convince the Guild of Motoring Writers that it is safer for motorists to drive on dipped headlights than on sidelights only, even in well-lit streets. To date this campaign has cost some £20,000. It has the sympathy of the Mayor of Birmingham, Joseph Lucas Ltd., and most of the Midlands motor manufacturers. It is extremely anxious to compel the Minister of Transport, who was represented at the luncheon to which the Guild was invited last February, to adopt a National dipped lights experiment.
That many of those present were not convinced that driving is any safer under these conditions was also apparent. As we ourselves prefer to allow drivers to use their own discretion and do not want yet another compulsion on the already over-burdened motorist, we would pose the following questions:—
(a) There is usually confusion after an accident. Who decides how a vehicle was lit in those accidents on which the B.C.H.C. statistics are based?
(b) Unless all dipped headlamps are properly adjusted, does the Committee deny that they cause dazzle, glare and confusion, especially in rain, and with snow on the roads and kerbs? It is surely, easier to judge vehicle width in conditions of no glare.
(c) Great importance is attached to being sure it is safe to make a right turn. If the rear-view mirror cannot be consulted because of dazzle, what then?
(d) If Birmingham pedestrians are being trained that a vehicle on sidelights is stationary, on dipped headlamps is moving, will they not be seriously endangered by drivers not complying, or when they walk about the roads of other towns?
(e) Does not the use of dipped headlights in towns encourage absent mindedness about putting them out when parked?—more dazzle!
(f) It is well-known that confusion over signposting causes lack of concentration. Could the good results claimed for Birmingham be because it is a notoriously difficult city to negotiate and in these circumstances, dipped lamps make the driver’s task easier?
We feel sure the B.D.H.C. will be prompt in answering!
At a time when changes seem to be taking place amongst old-established journals as a result of take-over bids and, as the Financial Times unkindly expressed it, “a new cover has joined the harem already leering from the news-stands—on the front of a motor journal—of all magazines,” we would like to put on record, as we approach our 40th birthday, that we remain on good terms with our competitors as they seek to draw new readers from the hordes of 40-m.p.h. “mimsers” who multiply every year, to add to the congestion of our roads.
Motor Sport will continue to cater for motoring enthusiasts and does not intend to publish cosy de-coking hints or complicated road-tests apeing Consumer Association reports. We are not concerned with the circulation rat-race and our policy has been successful; Motor Sport‘s net sales are now over 140,000 and still rising, some 10,000 more than any other motoring journal.
Towards the Police State
We are fully aware that the police do magnificent and essential work for the community, as one of the evening papers pointed out in a recent Editorial. The diminishing confidence of the public in the Police Force stems from the ridiculously high number of persecutions for petty motoring offences, and it is high time the top brass who direct the tasks of policemen on the beat and in patrol-cars enabled them to pay less attention to drivers who only technically break the law. . . . Blame is directed not so much to the policeman as to those in authority over him.
Although we have no direct association with the Motoring Defence League, we continue to take an interest in persecution of motorists all over the country, persecution that caused Mr. J. J. Leeming, County Surveyor of Dorset, who has fought so hard for better roads and introduced so many worthwhile improvements in his county’s road system, to say that “It is hard to resist the conclusion that the motorist is now, in this country, rapidly taking the place the Jew occupied in Nazi Germany.“
There is the case of the L-driver collier whose car ran out of petrol late at night in Ammanford. The qualified driver with him took over the job of pushing the car, while the L-driver steered. A policeman decided to look into their innocent progress. Result: A fine of £3 for the L-driver, a fine of 30s. for his friend. There was no accident; no-one was involved.
There is the case of a driver who, in the words of a Chief Inspector of Police, “came forward in a public-spirited way to help the police” after an accident. His help accepted, they asked if he had a driving licence. He hadn’t, so Newton-le-Willows Sessions fined him £1.
There is the case of a policeman whose car ran into another and hurled it across the road being fined £5 (£2 11s. 7d. costs) by Warwick Magistrates’ Court, where a lorry driver whose error of judgement caused others to take avoiding action was fined £15 (£8 16s. costs), and a driver who had never been convicted in 44 years being fined £10 after a minor collision. There is the case of a driver doing 28 m.p.h., corroborated by his two passengers, through a radar speed trap in Bilston and being accused by the police of having done 42 m.p.h.—the Deputy Stipendiary Magistrate called this a “mistake,” saying “any moving object will register on the screen—it could be a stone, a bird or a vehicle on a parallel road. I do not want it thought I am suggesting that the police were telling untruths.”
Finally, as space is running out, there is Mr. Marples, who at school was presumably taught not to sneak, sending a photograph of himself to a Cornish schoolboy whose ‘phone call had resulted in the arrest of a drunken motorist—the photograph showing Mr. Marples clinking glasses of alcohol with a lady friend, bottles before him-hardly the way, suggests the Sunday Telegraph, to exalt sobriety! And John Gordon of the Sunday Express exposed the case of a London motorist summoned for not paying a parking offence penalty—which he had paid, by cheque. The police refused to believe him, so the cheque was produced in Court as evidence. Case thrown out—but costs against the police refused, although the bank charged £5 5s. to clear the motorist’s name. Our readers notice these “acts of aggression” and ask Motor Sport to expose them. . . .
There’s one bright bit—the sporting Chief Constable of Gloucestershire initiating his own prosecution after a collision because he failed to see a junction. He believes the police must expect no favours for themselves. Fine: £20.