Living in the Midlands and frequently travelling south to visit friends and relatives my two nightmares are the M40 and the M42. The latter, between junctions 9 and 3A, has been turned into a test-bed for looney traffic calming schemes. Now that the knee-jerk coalition have brought in legislation to curb “centre lane hoggers” the button pushers at HQ Central will have a field day. Talk about being hard on crime and the causes of crime!
I have written the story below to illustrate my feelings.
Anyway, there I was zooming up the M40 heading for the dreaded M42 and the “Calm Zone”, when I noticed a green Jaguar tailgating me. I thought to myself, ‘where are the Traffic Police when you need them?’ Being a devotee of Sky News and Twitter, I knew that tailgating”, was, now, also an offence.
However, I had other, more important things on my mind. Bex Marshall was in session on Whispering Bob Harris’s Radio 2 show. Lets face it, you need some blues and slide to stimulate the brain after midnight, especially when driving on a boring motorway.
I was in cruise, all I had to do was steer and listen to good music. John Lee Hooker, Johnny Otis, Ryan Adams and then, according to Whispering Bob, Bex Marshall would be in session in about ten minutes. Eureka!
“Whoop!, whoop!” Lights flashing in my rear-view mirror. ‘Good’, I thought. ‘The cops have got that idiot tailgater.’
“Whoop!, whoop, whoop”.
I looked in my rear-view mirror again, if I’m honest, to gloat, when I saw that the light show was coming from the Jaguar, not only that but the driver was waving to me, not in a friendly way I might add, to pull over.
My first thought, ‘I wish you could press record on a car stereo system, I’m going to miss Bex Marshall now!’
I digress, about a mile further on I managed to pull over and park on the hard shoulder. The Jaguar parked in front of me, lights still flashing, displaying to the World that this particular Traffic Cop was doing his job.
He took an age to get out of his car and walk up to mine. He gave the Universal sign for me to wind down my window.
“Turn the music off sir!”
“The music! Turn it off.”
I complied, realising that I will now miss Bex in session.
“Yes, officer. What can I do for you?” I asked.
“Do you know what you have been driving in for the last five miles, sir?”
Come on, I defy anyone.
“My Nissan Qashqai, officer.”
He stiffened and his voice seemed to drop an octave.
“Step out of the car please sir.”
Perhaps a quip too far? Anyway I did as he asked and stood facing him. I say, facing him. I’m no giant, if you stretch the tape I top out at five eight, I was looking at the top of his hat. I just prayed that I wasn’t going to be subjected to “small man syndrome”.
“License?!” He demanded.
I duly handed over my brand new, all-in-one plastic license card.
“Part ‘B’ ?”
“Pardon?” I said.
“The paper section, the one with all of your convictions on it.” He replied, sarcastically.
“I don’t have it with me.” I told him.
“You are supposed to have it with you sir.” He said. The sarcasm spilling from his mouth.
“I was supposed to have my wife with me but she had to stay at her friends house. These things happen.”
“We can do this here or I can radio for a patrol car to take you to the police station. I would advise more answers and less flippancy, sir.”
I looked down at him. Why do the night shift if it makes you this miserable, I wondered.
He started again. “Is this your vehicle, sir?’
Bloody stupid question, I’ve watched Law and Order UK, I know that they do a PNC check on the vehicle before they get out of their car.
‘No.” He repeated.
“No.” I repeated back.
“Then would you mind telling me who it belongs to?”
I was tempted to correct him, ‘to whom it belongs’. I thought better of it.
“It is lease-hire.” I said and confirmed from whom it was leased.
“Do you know that it is an offence to hog the middle lane of a motorway?” He asked.
“Yes and I was not hogging the middle lane. The middle lane has been clear of traffic since I drove past Banbury, some thirty miles back, so I would hardly call me occupying an empty lane, ‘hogging’.”
“Sir, I was behind you for five miles and I have you on camera hogging the middle lane.” He couldn’t hide the hint of triumph in his voice.
“In that case.” I replied. “You will have noticed that I was travelling at a constant speed of seventy miles an hour. Further, the vehicles, mostly lorries, which were nose to tail on the inside lane were going much slower than me. Are you saying that I am supposed to reduce my speed to match theirs and slip in amongst them?”
“I am simply telling you that the Law does not allow you to hog the middle lane and that is what you were doing.”
“Actually.” I replied. “I was overtaking them.”
“You expect me to believe that sir?”
“I expect you to be my witness to it, officer. There was not an opportunity to get onto the inside lane so I reasoned that it would be best to overtake the whole lot of them.”
He said. “Wait there.” Then he walked back to his partner in the Jaguar and had a long chat before coming back to me.
“Its your lucky night sir. I have decided that on this occasion I will not be taking any further action against you. However, the Law is there to protect the public and other road users. Do not abuse it again, especially on my motorway!”
He handed me back my license and strode back to his Jaguar.
Duly chastened, I pocketed the license and got into my car. Back on the motorway I thought about what had happened. The Law is truly an ass sometimes and I believe this to be one of those times. Yes, it is annoying when people stick like glue to the centre lane of a motorway and, on occasion, it can be dangerous. To Legislate against it though, especially when there are more important things which need Legislating against, is a nonsense.
It is typical of a Government in crisis. A Government which has lost its way and aided and abetted by a clueless Opposition.
Unfortunately this brain-dead philosophy carries through the whole system. “I’m in charge, so you will do as I tell you”, attitude filters down the line.
To prove a point, upon leaving the M40 and joining the M42 I was subject to speed restrictions. One o’ clock in the morning on an empty motorway and I was being told by gantry signs that the max speed was 60 mph.
Totally nonsensical and the cynic in me says, designed to frustrate the motorist and make him/her break the Law.