(A guest article written by Peter Moore)
When I started driving many, many years ago, my first car was a Morris 8, I wish I had it now, but it had tiny thin tyres, bouncy suspension, imprecise steering and useless brakes, since that was as far as technology had progressed. Also it had hopeless visibility through small windows and a tiny rear view mirror. The wipers cleared a little bit of the screen, which misted up in the rain and the only way to maintain vision was to hinge the windscreen open.
That was how cars were and, in built up areas the speed limit was 30mph.
Now I have a Jaguar which has big grippy tyres and anti locking power brakes. It has power steering as well and a feature to prevent the wheels spinning if you use too much throttle. The windows are huge and it has three mirrors, one in the middle and one each side. Hot wires in the front and rear screens, keep them clear all the time.
It is ‘a car’ as the Morris was ‘a car’, but there is no comparison. The speed limit is still 30mph.
One summer Sunday morning I was driving my Jaguar through the countryside, on a journey I make maybe twice a week and for the last four years. I came to a village with a road in, a main street and a road out. It being early I was almost the only vehicle, there were no kids going to school, no dog walkers on the pavement, just me.
I know that in the summer there are often cycle races around here,so I keep an eye out and in the distance on the road out of the village I saw a race Marshal in a high visibility jacket. And then the person walked out in front of me and raised her hand and as I got closer I saw the word POLICE on her clothes. I pulled off the road and stopped.
“Thank you for stopping,” said the very pretty young Policewoman. Her appearance was enhanced by her motor cycle leathers and I saw that she had concealed her big Honda motorbike behind some shrubbery that had also concealed her. “The last driver did not stop,” she said, followed by, “Is this your car ?”
Years ago I had a pal who was a Cop and he said never to engage a Cop in conversation. “We don’t want to chat with you,” he said, “even when we seem to be making small talk. We just want to get you talking so that you incriminate yourself “.
Thus I replied, “Officer, whatever I say you will not take at face value, you will check on your Police computer, so I shall just sit quietly here while you do that.” I knew that I had Tax. Insurance and an MOT and that the car was in good order, so I was not much concerned.
But, while waiting for response, the Officer was scanning my tyres (they were OK) while asking me questions, “Where have you come from today, Sir, and where are you going, do you have your driving licence, have you been stopped by the Police before ?”
I replied, “I have come from Maldon, I am going to Burnham, I do not have my licence since I have had no need to produce it for over thirty years and yes I have been stopped by the Police. I think that was in 1974.”
“Do you have any identification?” she asked and I produced a Debit Card with my name on. “We have a problem,” she said. I said that I could see no problem as surely she had been told that the car was legal and that I owned it . “It’s not that,” she said, “it’s because your licence is registered in London and you come from Maldon.” I explained that I had two homes. The Cop wanted to know how the DVLA could contact me if they required to do so. I said they could write to my London address where all my mail went. ‘”Well,” she said, “I suppose that is OK.”
Then she said, “I need to talk to you about your speed, you were travelling at 39mph.” I said that she was probably correct, but that while the village had a 30 limit, we were no longer in the village. She pointed out that the 30 zone did not end for another 100yds and round a bend. I just said “OK”.
So, I was told that I could pay £60 and get points on my licence or go on a Speed Awareness Course, pay additionally for the course, and have no points. I chose the latter. When she had finished writing I asked if I could go now.
“Have you had any alcohol in the last 24 hours?” she asked. I said that I had and was breathalysed. It read zero and I was allowed to go.
Before I left I said, “Officer, you mentioned that the previous car did not stop for you”.
“Yes,” she said, “the guy saw me, stopped, turned around really fast and sped off. There must have been something very wrong there, like drink, drugs or theft, stolen car or no documents.” I asked if she had pursued the car on her fast motorcycle, she said no, she had just let the car race away.
As I was driving on the rest of my journey I was thinking that she would not be sent out to make these stops in the rain or in poor visibility or where there was more traffic and many pedestrians about. It would be too dangerous for her and the drivers etc. But, those are the very instances where a bit of excess speed would actually cause an accident. Also when she observed real criminality she took no action, again I would think due to risk.
But on a Sunday morning with nothing much happening, one officer catching four offenders an hour could earn £240 for the Essex Police and £144 for the Council. That assumes the income could not be topped up with drunk driving, no insurance, faulty tyres etc. As pleasant as she was, she was itching to find something else to nick me for. What a very easy way of making money and massaging the crime clear up rate.
One day I will tell you about the Speed Awareness course.