31 Jan 2013

Speeding - The worst offender

Chris Small discusses inappropriate, and mindless, speeding

These days, to lots of people, trying to discuss the rights and wrongs of breaking the speed limit is about as popular as trying to discuss the pros and cons of Japanese whaling, but speeding as we all know and regretfully appreciate can be dangerous. There will be many who like to quote various statistics about how other driving faults cause the majority of accidents on our roads and that the speeders always get the brown end of the stick. But much as these people can wax lyrical all they like, it is an undeniable fact that speed kills. However, it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

There are many different types of speeders on our highways and not all of them are responsible for the accidents that are subsequently caused. I know that many incidents are primarily down to dangerous driving, but I’m only talking about those that occur as a direct result of going too fast. For example some may say the business man who is late for his meeting is the one most likely to have a prang. Others might suggest that it’s the 17 & 18 year olds flying around our town centres at night on a mission to severely damage their parents no claims bonus.

Then there are the sports car owners who like nothing better than going through their favourite complex of corners kissing every apex with an occasional touch of Pirelli protest. Then of course there’s the white van man who likes to demonstrate that his Mercedes Sprinter is the fasted thing on the M6, bar-none. Lets be honest, even a Veyron may struggle to keep up with a Sprinter. 308 Cdi? 308HP I reckon. Anyway, we digress. In my opinion none of the aforementioned groups are the most hazardous when it comes to breaking the law of the road. Why? Because for all their faults and irresponsibility, in the main, they are fully aware that they are going faster than perhaps they should. The real danger on our roads are those drivers that are blissfully unaware of the fact that they are going twice as fast as they should be.

This eureka moment came to me only a couple of evenings ago when I attempted to overtake the silver Honda Jazz that I always catch up on my way home from the office. By all accounts both he and I leave work at the same time. Moreover, it appears that he lives out in the sticks as well, as our paths always seem to cross on the daily journey back to the depths of deepest darkest Somerset.

Normally, I catch him up in exactly the same place, a nice clear straight where there is rarely anything coming the other way. It’s always the same. I’m doing the legal limit, 60 in this case, and he’s doing 40. Sometimes, if I time it right, I don’t even have to lift. I just check the road is clear, pull out and carry on. But, I’ve noticed of late that the driver appears not to be too impressed by this, as demonstrated by a fine selection of hand signals gesticulated in my general direction, combined with an erratic flashing of the lights. Well, two nights ago, I caught him up just after the straight and much to my annoyance I realised I would be behind him for the next half an hour.

As I sat there at bang on 40 staring at the back of the un-shapely Jazz I was imagining what conversation he was probably having to himself as he periodically glared at me in the mirror. “It’s a speed limit, not a target,” I heard him saying in a typically nasal tone. “You won’t get there any quicker” etc. However, what I then witnessed just about summed this character up as one of the most dangerous people ever to be put in charge of a motor vehicle.

We bumbled along in the 60 zone at a steady 40 for what felt like a lifetime, until we came into one of the small villages on the route. This is a village I know well. There’s a little primary school on one side of the road and a park on the other. Then there’s the obligatory village shop and a couple of pubs. In addition, there are frequently an abundance of cars parked in the most random spots. As I dropped down to the mandatory 30 miles per hour, Jazz-man started to get away from me. That’s right, you guessed it, he was still doing his designated 40. Now I don’t remember Honda setting the Jazz up to only travel at one preset speed, but maybe this passed me by. By the time I had left the village he was nowhere to be seen, I assumed he must have turned off, but no. After a few minutes of travelling at 60, I caught him up again, just in time to watch him disappear into another 30 zone at the same fixed speed. I slowed down again, but again by the time I was back on to the de-restricted highway he was gone. And I didn’t catch him up this time.

This guy is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous drivers I have seen for quite some time. He had no respect for the speed limit in anyway, shape or form. However, and here’s the really scary bit, I suspect he didn’t even know what it was. He probably just travels everywhere at 40 miles per hour, regardless of his surroundings and conditions. This is someone who at some point will be involved in a serious accident. It’s not a case of ‘if’, but when. Driving passed a school at home time or maybe a town centre pub at kicking out time. Well ok, maybe not that one, I can’t imagine he’s out and about wreaking havoc at that time of night, but you get the idea. It’s this collective of idiots who, in my mind, are public enemy number one.

I like spirited driving as much as the next car-nut, but I am always very conscious of what’s going on around me. I’m not saying that the business man who’s late for a meeting is any less irresponsible, but he knows he’s speeding, as does the sports car owner who goes out playing on his favourite B-roads on a Sunday morning. If you are fully aware and alert to what is going on around you, you stand a much better chance of being able to react quickly if you need to. If you are bumbling along in a dream however, and a child steps out from behind a parked car are you going to react in time to avoid disaster? Well, if you don’t even know how fast you are going or what the speed limit is, I would say probably not.