A short history of speed freakery

My cousin posted on Facebook the other day

Well, I have been a bad girl… Here for a driver’s awareness course. Yawn!!!

For those who aren’t familiar with the consequences of speeding in the UK you would usually be given a fine (£100 I think) and three points on your licence. If you accumulate 12 points inside 3 years then you are banned. You can acquire points for other misdemeanours but speeding is probably the commonest.

If you are caught, whether by a police speed gun or one of those yellow boxes (see what Jonny English thinks of them at 1.21), you are given a choice (I think you need to be over a certain age). Either take the points and the fine or submit to the speed awareness course to which my cousin referred (you pay the fine, in effect, in the compulsory fee for the course; you just avoid the points).

I took my day of shame a couple of years ago having slipped to 38 in a 30 mph zone. I thought, like my cousin, it would be a drag. Some worthy would be telling me to admit how naughty I’d been. There was a bit of that but I came away with some distinct and positive impressions:

1. 30 mph in a built up area is there for a reason. We saw films of a number of tests which showed how as little as 2 mph can make a significant difference to the stopping distance if you need to emergency brake. In one case the difference between 35mph and 38 mph (my speed0 was the difference in stopping the car and missing the teenager completely and sending him through the windscreen.

2. How ignorant most of us are about speed limits: what they are and when they apply and the signs that show which applies when. The first 30 mph speed limit that was introduced applied in built up areas; it was brought in  in the 1930s and applied where there were street lights. This is still the test. If there is a different limit where there are street lights (for example on some dual carriageways) you always get signs (called ‘repeaters’) that remind you of the different limit.

3. It is a myth to think you are in the right to drive below the speed limit. Subject to the conditions (this is the essential caveat) you should drive to the speed limit. So going at 20 mph in a 30 mph zone when there is nothing to suggest you need to go more slowly is plain wrong.

4. If you want to see, in microcosm why Britain today is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, pan religious mongrel of a nation, go on one of these courses. We had, amongst others, an age range of 24 to 82, both sexes and other sexualities, representatives of five of the seven world religions, people from backgrounds as diverse as East and West Africa, South east Asia, the Indian Sub continent, Polynesia, America, Eastern, Southern and Middle Europe, a doctor, a dentist and lawyer, two police officers and midwife, an unemployed rocket scientist and someone who sold advertising space. And there were only 45 in the room.

We all speed. It is one of the fundamentals of the human condition, like sharing DNA, bleeding and knowing instinctively that the Eurovision pop contest had nothing to do with music.

And more to the point we always have. The earliest speed limits were introduced back in the middle 19th century. These  were 4 mph in the country and 2 mph in towns. When in 1896 this was raised to 14 mph in most cases a celebratory drive from London to Brighton was held and, since 1927, in homage to that event the London to Brighton rally for old cars has been held. By the 1930s they scrapped them all (because, said the relevant minister, they were too difficult to enforce and the abuses were bringing the law into disrepute). They brought them back gradually, starting in towns and by the mid 60s spreading them onto all roads.

I and my cousin come from a long line of law breakers.

Speeding ticket Bert Francis

Bert Francis speeding ticket

This my great uncle. And then my pilot grandfather, who raced at Brooklyn race circuit between the wars, let the side down  in 1913

Speeding ticket Percy Francis b

Speeding ticket Percy Francis

Speeding ticket Percy Francis a

summons for speeding offence

It’s good to know its genetic and not my fault then…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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7 Responses to A short history of speed freakery

  1. Annecdotist says:

    I love how you’ve decided to blame your genes for this, Geoff, but isn’t it interesting how we feel entitled to break the speed limit in a way that we’d never dream of doing in relation to other laws? I’m glad you found the course helpful and not a patronising “telling off” – I’m sure Norah would agree it’s a good model for learning to give people the information and let them decide what to do with it.
    I had heard that going too far below the speed limit was also an offence, but didn’t know that it meant driving quite close to it. I had a frustrating drive home from the hills on Sunday in a long line of traffic following a car doing about 35 mph in a 50 mile zone. Although it was dark, there was good visibility, and the driver didn’t seem to be looking out for an obscure turnoff, so no real excuse. Can totally see from that how it’s dangerous because there’s such a temptation to try to overtake, even though there is no safe place to do so.
    So, driving courses in Britain – does that mean you’re back from your travels? I’m amazed how you kept up all that posting from what seemed like a pretty hectic holiday. I’ll bet you even completed NaNo too?

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      Er still travelling… One week to go. And um yes Nano completed – 62k though there’s a bit more to write to get to the end. With travelling there’s always down time, for reading or writing. At least I find some and the Lawyer doesn’t seem to mind! Your output, given the amount of research you do impresses me more than my random thought pieces.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Charli Mills says:

    Wide open western roads are a bad temptation to those with speeding in their DNA. I’ve never been caught so I’m not going to publicly admit to any speed that is unlawful, unreasonable or improper! 😉

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      One of the beauties of my trip in NZ has been the virtually empty roads. I’ve not Ben tempted to speed (mostly because hire cars aren’t of the type to make it worthwhile) but to be able to cruise without pressure is a forgotten experience in the UK.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are destined to a life of fines given the genes you have inherited.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lucciagray says:

    Family traditions! Good excuse!

    Like

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