I am now a dangerous driver. This is something quite new as, until recently, my 17 years of motoring have been free from incidents. Earlier years had their share of sporting machinery, but maturity, plus a family, plus commercial responsibilities, have conditioned me to the stage where an excellent Volvo 144 Automatic is ideally suited to my needs and temperament.
Two years ago, an early morning 48 m.p.h. brought me my first brush with the law and resulted in a fine—and an endorsement. Two months ago, an early morning 42 m.p.h. repeated the experience—and the endorsement. Both of these incidents were on wide, straight stretches where, an hour later in the day, 40+ is the normal traffic flow speed, although officially a 30 m.p.h. limit applies.
Rightly or wrongly, the letter of the law has been observed. I now have 12 months to look forward to with one more endorsement between me and disqualification. I now drive at precisely the legal limit and you would be amazed at the amount of havoc this can cause to the flow of suburban commuter traffic in and out of London. Cars, lorries and buses jostle for a chance to overtake and I have seen (caused?) more near misses in a month than I normally see in a year.
A second—and more serious aspect—of my present situation is that about half of the attention usually devoted to road conditions; and looking out for unwary pedestrians, has been switched to a constant watch on the speedometer and mirror. This is quite a logical reaction but, even in this world of topsy-turvy values, bereaved parents and relatives are unlikely to share the view that protection of a driving licence takes priority over life and limb.
My own—heavily biased—opinion of the police and “motoring” justice has not been improved by the extraordinary scale of penalties which the local court has seen fit to adopt. A young person of 21 (with two previous similar convictions) was given two years on probation for receiving stolen goods. A local police sergeant was fined £10 after being caught shoplifting!
The “totting-up” system may be considered a good idea in some quarters. Naturally I disagree: I only know that it has turned me into an awkward and truculent individual on the road with scant respect for the current breed of “goons in blue” whose lack of courtesy and discretion would seem to indicate that they are probably unemployable elsewhere.
However, to liven up the tedium of my daily journeys, I have developed the disconcerting trick of accelerating from traffic lights from to 30 with great gusto and then levelling off sharply at 30 m.p.h. Great fun, and a moment of triumph was only just missed when I nearly collected a police car which had taken off after me— probably under the impression that they were about to nab Stirling Moss again.
This is all very childish of course, but, if you get stuck behind a white Volvo dawdling along, please bear in mind that I am just another member of the Great British Apathetic Public who has stood helplessly by whilst restriction after restriction has been heaped on to the motorist. I am a victim of the system—it could so very easily be your turn next!
P. G. Williams.
[When are we going to rebel! —ED.]