The only time I’m truly scared while behind the wheel of a car is when I’m forced by average speed cameras to drive at 50mph on a British motorway.
Even when I was driving up Bolivia’s death road, and there was a sheer thousand foot drop to my left, and a car coming the other way, I had to wind up the acting because the truth is, I had a steering wheel, and a brake pedal. And if I used them correctly, I’d be fine. Which I was.
It was the same story in the McLaren P1, at Spa, in the rain. Yes, it did all sorts of weird things with its rear wheels if I tried to accelerate even a tiny bit but I solved this by not accelerating at all. Then, all was well.
But when I drive down a British motorway, under the ever watchful gaze of the government’s yellow cash machines, the steering wheel, the brake and the accelerator make no difference to whether I reach journey’s end or not. Because I’m completely at the mercy of other people.
Behind, there’s a Lithuanian lorry driver who is busy texting his mistress in Finland. To my right, there’s a big woman in a Peugeot who’s too close to the steering wheel and far too close to the car in front, which is being driven by someone who arrived last week from Syria and who can’t read English, so while he’s seen the signs saying “average speed cameras” he doesn’t know what that means, so he’s impatient. He’s roaring up to the car that’s in his way, and then braking, a lot.
I’m fearful that at any moment, the big woman in the Peugeot, whose grasp of stopping distances is up there with a dog’s grasp of how a sewing machine works, will swerve left to avoid our Syrian friend, and there won’t be a damn thing I can do because to MY left, there’s a giant diesel tank that’s suspended under a 40 tonne wagon It’s like being on an escalator, surrounded by bad tempered sociopaths and terrorists. You just have to stand there and hope.
The problem is that local councils and civil servants and people on the Highways Safety Partnership, who are all morons or they’d have a better job, have got it into their heads that speed is more dangerous than smearing yourself in meat and poking a great white in the eye. They think that if they can tackle speed, all will be well.
We’ve seen this before of course. In Victorian times, people were convinced that passengers on the new fangled railways would not be able to breathe if they went past 30 mph. Then we were told in the mid forties that anyone who attempted to travel faster than the speed of sound would surely die in a fireball. And now we have a whole army of bitter and twisted halfwits who think that on a motorway, when everyone is traveling in the same direction, and there are no pedestrians, 50 mph is as fast as we should be allowed to go.
They use cameras to enforce their will but these cameras? Can they catch people who have no driving licence? No. Nor can they spot people on the phone, or people who are drunk, or people who have just eaten a big K and E sandwich. They are concentrating on speed, which doesn’t matter at all, and ignoring all of the things which do.
If you try to point this out, you are told that since average speed cameras were installed on a 99 mile section of the A9 in Scotland, the number of people being killed has fallen by two. And that’s lovely of course for the two people who are now not dead, but could it be, I wonder, that they continue to be alive because the weather’s better these days, or because cars are safer? The speed Nazis don’t really have an answer for that one.
And they get all the support they need from the government who rather like the revenue from the fines.
The truth is that 50mph is too slow in this day and age. And because everything can travel at that speed, it causes bunching. It causes stopping distances to go out of the window and it causes minds to wander. You need to separate the faster traffic from the slower traffic which means you need the lanes to move at different speeds.
One of these days, I promise, average speed cameras will cause an enormous accident and many will be killed. But how do we get this message across?
At the moment, we blame whoever happens to be running the Department of Transport. But that’s pointless because he or she is invariably a here today, gone tomorrow, journeyman who isn’t bright enough to be Foreign Secretary or the Chancellor. No really. When a Prime Minister says to some hapless member of parliament “I’d like you to be Transport Minister”, what they are actually saying is “I hate you”.
So, the person or people we want to find are those who are advising the Transport Minister, the ones who turn up at meetings with algorithms in their plastic briefcases and dreams of a class war in their pale and uninteresting heads.
Seriously, they have our names and addresses. It’s how they fine us. So let us use the reach of social media to find theirs. And then its power to bully them into a change of heart.