Call yourself a driver?

Admit it: you can’t be trusted to drive your own car

If you suffer from such inexcusable lack of awareness, trust the state to disabuse you.

You can’t be allowed to operate your own vehicle because you’re a fallible human being.

The state, on the other hand, is infallible, which is why it can eliminate road accidents by driving your car for you.

The EU has announced that from 2022 all new cars (those that aren’t self-drive anyway, that is) will be equipped with automatic speed limiters. If a lawbreaker oversteps the limit, the device will instantly slow the car down to the required level.

Mrs May has wasted no time to announce that, Brexit soft, hard or none, Britain will follow suit, which is true to form. The more asinine an EU law, the more our government likes it, and vice versa.

Thus we’ve abandoned plans to bring our motorway speed limit in line with France’s, where it’s 81 mph. Since most British motorists drive at 80 anyway, allowing them to do so legally would deprive the state of all those fines, which simply won’t do.

Taking control of the car away from the driver smacks of carefully preplanned homicide, with several ways of achieving the desired goal.

Wreaking havoc on our roads by introducing the mad EU scheme of taking control away from the driver is a different matter. That’s just the kind of law Mrs May loves, based as it is on the paternalistic certainty that the state knows what’s good for you.

For example, temporary speed limits are widespread these days, as is the practice of tailgating. Now imagine driving on the M25 at the legal speed of 70 mph, with an old BMW driven by a youngster who has just got his licence about two feet from your rear bumper.

Suddenly a gantry in front of you flashes a temporary 60 mph limit. Your computer reacts instantly, but the youngster behind you doesn’t. You slow down, he doesn’t – wallop!

In fact, possible homicidal scenarios are too numerous even to list. Let’s say your passenger is having a heart attack; every minute can be a matter of life or death; you try to accelerate – but your car doesn’t let you. Or a juggernaut with Lithuanian number plates is shifting lanes just in front of you and you need to get out of trouble faster than the bossy device lets you. Or… etc.

Yet by far the biggest threat will come from the catastrophic gridlocks that’ll inevitably result from this drive-to-rule madness. For, anyone who has ever driven in a major city will know that it’s impossible to obey every traffic law, including speed limits, all the time.

You approach a traffic light, it turns to yellow. Stop gradually, says the Highway Code. Yet you’re so close to the light that you can only stop abruptly, and that BMW youngster whose loving attention you managed to escape on the M25 is still on your tail. So you step on the accelerator and zip through the light just as it turns red.

I won’t strain my imagination and your patience by thinking up dozens of scenarios where a traffic law clashes with the law of self-preservation. You can do it as well as I can, as you can imagine what our – already sclerotic – roads would be like if everyone stuck to the speed limit without ever exceeding it by, say, 10 per cent.

The more jams there are, the more nervous and impatient do drivers become – the likelier they consequently are to do stupid things. And most road fatalities are caused by people driving badly, not by them driving fast.

In fact, last year only 202 people were killed by excessive speed in Britain. ‘Only’ sounds like a callous word in this context, but considering that we have over 30 million drivers travelling billions of miles, the number is trivial. 

In any case, it’s possible to be a bad, slow driver and a good, fast one. For example, the most accident-prone motorway driver I knew was a colleague of mine who always chugged along under the speed limit.

(He often drove to Brussels on business, and one day we went together with me at the wheel. He fell asleep at Calais and woke up in Brussels, refusing to believe the clock. Apparently I had got there in half his usual time – and unlike him I’ve never had a motorway accident in my life.)

Now British roads are already among the safest in Europe. The French, for example, have twice as many road fatalities – this though France has roughly the same population, 2.5 times the territory and 10 times the number of road miles per car.

The area in and around Paris apart, France has, by our standards, empty roads everywhere, and yet the French create a regular vehicular carnage. And the US, which has five times our population and 40 times our territory, suffers 15 times the number of road deaths.

I’d suggest that perhaps HMG could show more trust in British drivers who, by my observation, are by far the best in the world. But it’s not about trust or lack thereof. It’s about empowering the state at the expense of the individual, and the government would introduce this awful law even if no one ever died on our roads.

Nor is it just a speed limiter. Also being installed are automatic breathalysers.

Your car will sense when you’ve had three glasses of wine instead of the allowable two and won’t start. That’ll kill social life in the countryside, but that’s not the state’s problem, is it?

I’m only sorry to see such artificial limits placed on modern technological advances that are, as we know, limitless. I think that breathalyser should take on new functions.

The car should indeed start, but then go into self-drive mode and deliver the culprit to the nearest police station. Then the vehicle could snap handcuffs on him and perhaps even slap him around, to save the police precious time.

If you think I’m joking, you ought to have more respect – not for me, but for the state’s infinite wisdom. Coming soon: a bathroom robot forcing you to wash your hands after relieving yourself.

3 thoughts on “Call yourself a driver?”

  1. I can assume what the two leading causes of car accidents are the same in Europe as in Australia. Yesterday, I had senior students fainting and throwing-up as we spent six long hours crammed in various sections of the local hospital and morgue watching horrific video clips of blood-splattered mangled youth, along with various first response police, paramedics and firemen all attempting to outdo each other with horrendous tales of crushed youth trapped in cars. Cause one; texting while driving, followed closely by males 18-25 inebriated while behind the wheel. Third statistic and the rest combined pale into insignificance compared to these. So, unless cars have built-in features to correct these, then other measures are useless.

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