Speeding to the end of the road

November 24, 2016 23:22

Monday morning started badly, very badly. Yet another speeding offence arrived in the post, as well as a letter confirming I was losing points for a previous penalty. Not to mention that I was awaiting a means-tested fine for speeding offence number three, and was registered to take a speed awareness course for offence number four.

I told myself: "That's it! Next time, I am giving up driving." With a depreciating car, high insurance costs, and so many offences, it would be safer and cheaper to use taxis.

How had I allowed myself to become such a liability? I was so proud when I passed my driving test, first time, aged 17, back when there was no separate theory test. It was the only exam in which I beat the cleverest boy I knew (he passed second time).

After almost 30 years on the road, you would have thought that I had perfected the art of driving.

Apparently not. In recent years, my driving has taken a steep downturn. All four of my speeding offences were for busting the 30mph limit. Two were on the same road, Hanger Lane, notorious for its gyratory system.

How had I become such a liability on the roads?

Penalty notices that I was hiding from my husband and insurance claims that were taking forever to sort were turning my driving experience into a nightmare.

I realised that, over time, my competence had turned into over-confidence. My feeling that the speed awareness course was long overdue, was confirmed by an irate driver shouting: "Learn to drive!"

The course was held at a local Holiday Inn, just six miles away and yet I still managed to get lost. Conscious that it would be crazy to get a fifth speeding offence on my way to the speeding course, I drove slowly and arrived late, the last one there.

I stepped gingerly into the room. Four tables filled with people - all ages, genders and ethnicities - listening intently to a cheerful trainer with a flip-chart. I felt as though I was back in school.

Course workbook in hand, I got to work. It stated reassuringly: "We're not going to lecture you or tell you that you have done something wrong. Instead we're going to get you thinking about speed limits, how you can tell what the limit is, how you can spot situations that mean you need to slow down and how you can control the speed of your vehicle."

Good! I needed urgent help with all these things. Then we had to answer the question: What stops you from driving within the speed limit? My reasons: Rushing; underestimating delays; carelessness; ignorance.

How come, I asked myself, did I not know all the speed limits, and for that matter, the typical stopping distances (Highway Code rule 126). How had I disregarded the fact that the speed limit in built-up areas is 30mph, unless otherwise stated (indicated by three street lamps in succession - never heard that before), 60mph on single carriageways, and 70mph on motorways? I had seen 40mph signs in so many areas, I must have assumed that applied also to, say, Hanger Lane.

I had simply stopped checking speed limits. Also, I was often treating limits as a target, not realising that, as the Highway Code primly observes: "It is often not appropriate or safe to drive at the maximum speed."

As the trainer fed us facts and statistics - there are more fatalities on rural roads than motorways, for example - and as I learned the hugely increased risks to pedestrians caused by a driver straying over the 30mph limit, I asked myself what other deterrent to speeding I needed?

Overall, the course has made me very self-conscious about my driving. With the very real fear of causing an accident, I have stopped using my mobile phone in the car. I'm still struggling to find a happy balance between driving legally and not speeding, which now means driving slightly over 60mph on a motorway.

But it seems I still have a lot to learn, as I continue to attract attention: "No right turn love," prompted a friendly taxi driver just the other day.

And then, four weeks to the day of the speeding course, I committed yet another offence: "Entering and stopping in a box junction". I despaired. I didn't even remember this incident.

The good news is that my daughter recently passed her test. I'd say she is pretty competent now (it just took her four tests). Little does she know that if I do abandon driving, I have the perfect driver waiting in the wings.

November 24, 2016 23:22

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive