Thursday, 6 June 2013

Get thee (further back) behind me?

So then, stereotypical Audi driver  - it appears that you're soon going to have to de-activate that bumper-seeking electromagnet lodged under the bonnet of your TDi A4 and start leaving a safe gap to the poor sod in front of you that you're pushing along at 80-plus.

And you're going to have to dig out the manual for the inbuilt hands-free system..

..not to mention dusting off that long-discarded copy of the Highway Code to find out just what that other lane to your left is actually for..

Yes, finally -  in answer to the countless prayers from those of us who don't subscribe to the Sociopath's Method, Her Majesty's Coalition has announced a shake-up of the rules relating to careless driving in the UK.

This means that The Boys in Blue (or rather more accurately these days, The Boys & Girls in Black & Day-glo Yellow) will have more powers to deal at the roadside with those who persist in driving like pillocks rather than referring miscreants to the courts.

Up until now, careless driving offences such as the afore-mentioned tailgating could only be dealt with by means of a summons to the local magistrates, whereas now your shiny-suited bumper-hugger can expect to be issued with a fixed penalty notice and licence endorsement right there & then in the back of the nice police-person's BMW estate.

And it doesn't stop there;  also - praise be - the long-hated tendency of the ignorant to remain steadfastly in the middle/outside lane of motorways/dual carriageways when there are patently no other vehicles within overtaking distance is to receive the scrutiny and attract the punishment it so rightly deserves. Lane hogging, the bĂȘte noire of so many motorists, is also set to be dealt with in a more forceful manner with fines of up to £100 being issued for the worst offenders, along with the dreaded three points on the licence.

And it's this offence in particular which most will find particularly irksome as it can effectively reduce what typically would be a free(ish)-flowing, 3 lane, high-speed carriageway to a bunched-up, frustrated 2 lane queue all having to merge into one lane to get around the seemingly-oblivious mobile chicane.

And it could also be argued that this behaviour also leads to even more tailgating as irate & otherwise law-abiding drivers try to bully the lane one refugee out of their way, or perhaps even more dangerously, drive up the inside of them with the obvious dangers inherent in doing so..

Of course, these motoring misdemeanours are already currently punishable by law, but the fact that the penalty for committing them - along incidentally with everyone's favourite - yakking into a hand-held mobile phone (or cell-phone to those of you who sit on the other side of the car to drive it) - has been increased nearly threefold in certain cases means that finally, those who persist in making driving on the UK's crowded roads even more stressful & hazardous than it already is might finally think before doing something stupid.

All very well in principle then, we here at UKMT will be applauding this news, but any crackdown on anti-social driving is only really going to have a meaningful effect if the Police are able to devote adequate resources to enforcing it.

Anyone who's ever watched the seemingly-interminable shows about the traffic cops on BBC1/Dave/Really/Watch/insert channel name here will attest to the fact that the chaps & chapesses of the nation's various Roads Policing Departments are as likely to be found attending to a domestic incident as they are pulling over a photocopier salesman on the M6 who is suffering delusions of being the next Jenson Button.

Whilst it's true that particularly on Motorways & trunk routes you're as likely to get nicked by a dark grey VW Golf bristling with a multitude of antennae & cunningly-concealed blue lights as you are the standard Polar White Volvo estate in battenburg trim these days, errant motorists are only ever going to alter their bad habits if they can expect to see a fully-marked police vehicle on their journey every once in a while.

And, whilst this isn't a rant about any potential underhand sneakiness of using unmarked police cars - really, it isn't - those regarding the matter from a more..cynical viewpoint might fear that these new powers, and especially the increased fines which go with them, might just tempt those in charge of HM Government's somewhat strapped Treasury to encourage even greater use of the more subtly-hued vehicles in order to catch offenders at it rather than preventing such behaviour in the first place..

Let's hope we they're wrong, eh..? ;-)

Dave Wakefield

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