Tough Treatment

In the distant past, you applied for a licence to drive and were encouraged to study the Highway Code (cost in the beginning, one penny) in the hope that it would help you to be a safe driver. I have always felt that a modicum of praise for how well millions of vehicle-users (and that includes high-mileage businessmen and truckers who carry big loads, night and day) cope with inadequate roads and increasing traffic congestion. might do more good than threatening us with ever-increasing penalties for the slightest misdemeanour.

Every sane person knows that road accidents can be horrific and must be reduced if at all possible. But I am not sure that it is altogether good policy to tell us of the frightful new penalties we may incur, every time we apply for a licence to drive our 'lethal weapons', or renew one. Instead of being encouraged to do our best when behind the wheel, now all we seem to receive are notices of increased fines and prison sentences, for traffic 'crimes'. All right! Those accidents must be reduced and those who joy-ride in stolen cars, anyone who drinks and drives (or drunks who walk in the road), and young hooligan drivers who go too fast, or overtake, in the wrong places, deserve all that is coming to them.

What troubles me is that justice is not always seen to be done, especially these days, yet after June you can no longer be convicted of careless driving: it will be "dangerous" driving. Should an inexperienced witness (and I do not exclude policemen) describe a skilful piece of car handling as dangerous, you could be in great trouble, facing unlimited fines (£5000 is suggested) and imprisonment for up to six months, or up to two years if found guilty by a jury. That apart, there does seem to be an anti-motorist drive in progress. More radar traps, six instead of three penalty points for speeding (although the MoT admits that one-in-four drivers exceed 80 mph on our motorways), stiffer MoT tests, new tyre laws rigously enforced, cameras at traffic lights, more sleeping policemen, plans to exclude private cars from cities . . . Big Brother is giving us tough treatment, which offers a troublesome outlook for 32 million drivers, most of whom are law-abiding yet must inevitably break some traffic regulation sooner or later, while contributing over £20 billion a year to the Exchequer. 200 mph supercars? Good luck to you!