I have always prided myself in being a law-abiding sort.
I am one of those crazy people who reports all earnings and does not cheat on taxes. I will return to the store to pay for an item not rung up on my receipt. I will call the cashier’s attention to change that is incorrect, particularly since i know that poor kid on minimum wage will have his pay packet docked if there is a shortfall in the register – I just can’t do that to someone.
I also, prior to November 21 of last year, prided myself in being as compliant with the speed limits of this fine land as any middle-aged, perpetually distracted, coffee-swilling gal could possibly be. Well, give or take.
We all know the law allows for 10% leniency on speed limits now, don’t we?
My first speeding ticket, gained at the tender age of 18, was for doing 69 in a 55. It cost me $120 and a few points on my license, but clearly I didn’t learn much from the experience, except that if I had only been going a little over 60, I would probably have been just fine. One can’t argue with radar…
Being pretty green and stupid, my take-home lesson from that was to simply be more careful to watch out for traffic cops, since they are unbelievably sneaky. At the tender age of 18, I formed the conclusion that enforcers of the speed limit, be they the hometown Barney Fife manning the local speed trap to fund his Christmas bonus or Trooper Dan with his mirrored sunglasses and his swagger, were all simply enforcing the limits to earn money and to annoy us otherwise law-abiding citizens. I figured, why don’t they spend a little time working on REAL crimes like drugs and murder?
Having said all this, I still managed to drive for decades on a clean license.
You see, British police don’t historically spend a lot of time stopping speeders. Sure, they will pull over suspicious looking vehicles, dodgy vans carrying too much weight and engage in high speed chases with joy riders and bank robbers – they are proper cops, even if they don’t carry guns. But as for traffic enforcement, speed cameras both on motorways and on secondary roads pretty much take care of that job for them.
The reason for my clean license, has little to do with PROPER compliance with the speeding laws and more to do with having an excellent memory. I know very well where each and every speed camera in my area is. Once you pass the hashlines, most of us figure we can go ahead and put our foot back down and cruise somewhere along the lines of the 10% rule.
Well, my friends, all of this has changed. On 21 November 2014 I was caught on radar doing 34 in a 30 mph zone. Was there a speed camera? Nope. What there was, and what we have been seeing more and more of lately, was a very discreetly clothed policeman standing near the side of the road aiming his radar gun straight at me. ME! Of all people! I was only JUST in excess of my 10%!
I was offered a couple of options: I could either A) fork out the £100 fine and accept 3 penalty points on my previously squeaky clean driving license and take my lumps with my motor insurers in the form of an increased premium, or I could B) cough up the same money and four hours of my life to take a Speed Awareness Course in exchange for waiving the penalty points.
I opted for the course, and while they were four hours of my life I can never get back, I can’t honestly say I regret having gone. I have decided that old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and a brush up on the rules and regs has not hurt me a bit.
As it turns out, the mythical 10% rule does not exist. We had a driver in the class who was ticketed for doing 32 in a 30! Unfair, you say? Well, that was what I thought at first. Until we watched the traffic accident scenarios played out and discussed the difference in stopping distances for even marginal excesses of speed. A child hit at 20 mph, for instance, has a 98% chance of survival. Anyone struck at 40 mph has a survival rate of about 10%, and even then will likely sustain serious head injury, since the body buckles over the front of the car and the head impacts the windscreen. Striking a child in the vital organs at that speed? Well, that puts their survival pretty much next to impossible.
Frankly, I love to drive. Using my cruise control takes so much of the joy out of the experience, as does using my speed limiter on residential streets. But it is helpful to remember that the limits are there for a reason. Barney Fife and Trooper Dan are not just out trying to inconvenience us – a speed zone is limited for a reason. Those annoying little Podunkville speed traps? People live there. Kids go to school there and old grannies cross the road on Zimmer frames. Tractors are entering from intersecting roads. There are people on horseback, people on bicycles…
As regards motorway restrictions and the importance of noting weather conditions and driving appropriately, I submit for your perusal a short video re-enactment based on crash scene findings of one of Britain’s worst motorway accidents. Motorists travelling at 70 mph in dense fog, eastbound along the M4 near Hungerford when the driver of a yellow van falls asleep in the fast lane and hits the barrier… As you watch the frame by frame reenactment, remember that the entire incident occurred in only 19 seconds. The crash was so dramatic, it changed law and even has its own wikipedia entry.
Slow down, my lovelies! Better to be late than dead. *cluck!*
- feature photo: Shutterstock
- women driving: funny-pictures.picphoto.net
- speed camera: pepipoo.com
- Scream meme: imgflip.com
- Old people meme: jokideo.com
- dogs in car meme: pinterest.com
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