In an attempt to reduce road accidents, the Government has all manner of nasty ideas for those who offend. Quite right, of course, for habitual casual drivers, fools, and those youngsters who steal cars for races on public roads and so often injure and kill others, if not themselves. But experienced, sensible drivers of sound cars may, unjustifiably, become victims of the ever-tightening restrictions on driving those mechanically-propelled vehicles without which modern life would grind to a crawl, and which have been well developed in safety aspects since the first ones appeared 100 and more years ago.
Radar speed-traps, wheel clamping (a £150-million a year pernicious practice, open to criminal cowboys), Gatso cameras, unmarked police cars, all can be snares even for careful, skilled, conscientious car owners. We all make the odd mistake or two, but as motorists, these are not forgiven. Remember that forgetting to fasten your seat-belt could cost you a fine of up to £500. Not seeing a traffic light, £1,000. (If you want the full sad story “Tyreservices” depots will give you a free booklet about You and The Law.) More haste and less speed is the ideal of the law-makers, in this horseless age! You can be apprehended (ominous word) for so many things — parking within 32ft of a junction, forgetting to switch off a fog-lamp, or accidentally beeping the horn in a town between 11.30pm and 7am — shades of the restrictions pioneer motorists had to fight.
I am reminded that Dr Michael Bingley is relentlessly opposing the fresh spate of such iniquities. Drivers who offend are threatened with a further test within two years of the first, which self-satisfied John MacGregor sees as “frightening, overconfident, aggressive, driver attitudes”. Old folk who need cars, even find enjoyment in them, are targetted, as well as keen young drivers. Quite a good thing, you say? Well, it frightens me, after hearing how a Sunday Telegraph‘s clean-licence driver of 21 years’ accident-free, 250,000 miles experience, failed the IAM test with an ex-police examiner because he did not know the colour of M-way cat’s eyes, had not looked over his shoulder before moving off (what are mirrors for?), had crossed his hands when cornering (F1 drivers please note) and had got up to a giddy 38mph!
It is estimated that 80% of drivers, if forced to take the test again, would fail. If this makes a nonsense of those of us who try to drive decently, what will it do for those whose motoring life is just commencing? The war on motorists seems to be hotting up! Finally, there is the threat of increased car licence fees in the forthcoming Budget, to raise more than the present £23.6 billion, regardless of the fact that only a miserably small part of this has been spent on road improvements.