Mandatory minimum speed limits
Picture the scene. It is a beautiful sunny day. There are two drivers, one of whom is a handsome young dynamo in a convertible sports car and getting, within socially acceptable boundaries, a bit of a lick on.
The other is a doddering old biffer in a vintage Honda Jazz. If you haven’t guessed which one was me, it was the bloke sitting right behind the 5.5-litre V8 of a Mercedes SLK 55 AMG.
Just two people going about their daily driving lives, you probably aren’t thinking, because if that was the case I wouldn’t be writing this article. Let’s call the crossing of paths between me and Jazz Biffer one that didn’t engender fond memories of the kindness of strangers.
I had been enjoying myself quite nicely thank-you-very-much, when I happened upon the back end of this absurdly pedestrian driver at the helm of his five-door mobility scooter.
While no doubt Jazz Biffer’s views were that my furiously-piloted black missile was going far too fast, making far too much noise and generally being a complete menace and danger to all society, I just think that 35 mph in a 60 limit is taking the Michael. Especially when the oncoming traffic is pretty much solid and safe overtaking chances are non-existent even with 450 bhp on call.
So there we were. My thunderous V8 had been kicked in the spuds by the ever-so-inoffensive and yet oh-so-irritating back end of this Japanese pension-hatch.
With nothing to do but sit there, watch the sat-nav for upcoming straights and prepare the car for the fastest overtake possible, I waited for a gap. Oh, how I waited. If there’s a Nobel Prize for Patience in the Face of Old Biffers, I won it that day. I stayed away from the back of the grubby little fun-sponge and bided my time. I was worrying that the cylinder deactivation system on the Merc’s engine had been active for so long the four unemployed cylinders would form a union and go on strike.
Eventually, although I didn’t strike gold, I could make a decent claim at silver. Maybe silver-plated nickel. A long straight gave me a bit of a gap between oncoming traffic, so I finally opened up all eight pots and planted the throttle into the floor as though Ayres Rock had fallen on it from 40,000 feet.
I’d pre-selected second gear and the speed differential when I passed Jazz Biffer was, errm, significant. I got past more quickly than I’d expected, leaving everybody involved acres of space and deserting the now huge queue of traffic that had built up, only to then receive a dose of main beam from Biffer.
Here’s the problem. Most of us motoring hacks are in a privileged position in that we really know what cars can and can’t do, where as Post Office-loitering pigeon-botherers like this kind gent have at best only experienced the relative thrill of an 82 bhp 1.4. They just can’t comprehend the performance and capabilities of an AMG car, so they assume they’re dangerous. It’s the same with motorbikes half the time.
It certainly flaming well would be dangerous if you tried a space-limited overtake in a Jazz, but the fact is that some cars are just more capable than others and some drivers are fortunate enough to have the awareness to drive them more quickly – while staying safe.
For me it comes down to driving experience. I really don’t give a monkey’s how many years you’ve been behind the wheel. It’s irrelevant. If you’ve been driving low-powered cars everywhere at low speeds since Michael Jackson was black, your driving experience in terms of how to handle a car is as near to zero as it could possibly be.
Jazz Biffer’s main beam was unnecessary, and he proves my point. The lack of self-awareness; of knowing just how slowly you’re driving in relation to the legions of cars that are stuck behind you praying that you get a puncture is, or at least should be, criminal.
So anyway, I propose mandatory minimum speed limits with radar-based forward ‘vision’. If you drop below 80 pr cent of the maximum speed limit for the road without good reason, i.e. traffic ahead of you, your car electronically shuts off and steers you off the road until such time as you’re willing to get your act together.
The technology is all there – we could do this tomorrow. Anyone who’s not prepared to keep their car up to a reasonable speed should buy an Xbox and keep their permanent Sunday driving strictly digital.