Monday, January 26, 2004

How to speed and get away with it

I spent roughly nine hours on the country's highways and byways this weekend, mainly on the M25 and the A1. I've been driving for quite a few years now and unlike most of my peers, I've never picked up a speeding ticket, whereas one of my workmates Mark, was clocked at an average of 119 mph on the M3 just last month.... Ooops!

I rather value my driving license, so I've devised a simple set of rules that allow me to follow the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law.

1) Never, *ever* speed in urban areas. It's simply not worth going over 35mph in a 30 zone or 45mph in a 40 zone. You're usually driving very short distances when you're restricted to 30-40mph, so sneaking an extra 5mph (which will incur you a fixed penalty fine and 3 points) doesn't really save you more than 1 minute on a 20 minute trip, and you're most likely to get caught speeding in urban areas. Ask yourself, are you *really* in that much of a hurry?

2) Never speed at night. Think about it - if you're driving really late at night, the roads are clearer, there aren't so many cars about, so it's tempting to really put your foot down, right? WRONG. After 11pm at night, practically the only cars on the road are either taxis or police cars. That means the statistical probability of those shining white lights in your rear view mirror being those of a police car are disproportionately high. Therefore, you're far more likely to get nicked for speeding at night. Besides, if the roads are so clear, do you really *need* to break the speed limit?

3) Safety in numbers. The logical extension of the previous point is this; If you're on a road where *everyone* is speeding, you're much less likely to get picked up for it. You either have to be the poor sap at the tail end of the queue or really unlucky to get caught.

4) Use the 10% rule to your advantage. If you must speed, the key is not to speed too much. Anything over 35mph in a 30 zone is not only risking getting a ticket, but also highly dangerous, due to the high density of pedestrians, etc. Likewise on motorways, anything over 80 will not only make you risk a speeding ticket, it's also making you risk your life. Beyond 80mph, you need the reflexes of a fly and the brakes of a Formula One car to drive at anything approaching "safety". 75mph (as opposed to 70mph) on a motorway will save you half an hour on a 200 mile journey, and will also leave you time to react to pesky things like speed cameras or snarl ups. A word of warning, however - you can't absolutely rely on the accuracy of your speedometer - which is why we have the 10% rule in the first place - so if it says you're doing 75mph, you could in fact be doing 85, which is Fine Country.

5) Never speed when there are cameras about. This is a total no brainer really. Cameras are a lot less forgiving than Patrolmen, and going 10mph or more faster than the speed limit won't allow you time enough to slow down for them safely. Given that most drivers are muppets who tailgate you at 75mph five feet away from your bumper, sudden breaking to avoid cameras will only result in getting a Daewoo up your derriere.

6) An extension of point 3 - when you're speeding, *never* be the fastest car on your particular stretch of road. Because that's just *begging* for trouble. If you're going over the limit, have a police car about to pick you up, but someone whooshes past you like you're in a Trabant, they'll go for the faster car. I know this because this is what happened when the aforementioned Mark got picked up.

*Everyone* speeds. You know it, I know it. The Police and the government know it too. But they can't arrest and ban everyone, so if you speed *sensibly* you can cut those precious minutes off your journey time, but minimise the risk of getting caught or having an accident. The best defense against having points on your license, however, is just to obey the law. They're there for a reason, you know.

I've been thinking that if the Government really wants to cut down speeding offenses, they should introduce a new Super License. Have people pay 100 quid a year for a Super License that allows people to go up to 90mph on motorways, with mandatory annual high speed driving training and retests. Reserve the outside lane for the super license holders and overtaking only (for non-super license holders, who will be subject to instant bans if they get caught doing over 80mph). That way, not only can the government plunder extra cash off the motorist to fund the maintenance of the motorways, people get to speed legally and a whole lot more safely, because they've actually been trained to drive at high speeds. It'd reduce the number of speeding offenses by providing a real deterrent, and it'd cut down the number of road traffic accidents per year, too, because most of them on motorways are caused by people who can't handle driving so fast.

I reckon it'd work. Hell, I'd pay for one.

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