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Eighteen months later: back behind the wheel again

As a senior citizen on the wrong side of 70 with – shall we say – an unfortunate propensity over the past fifty years for collecting “occupational hazard” speeding fines – I am often mocked by friends, family and acquaintances for the obvious reasons that since (generally) they are signposted and there are cameras spying upon us everywhere, (at the end of the day) is it really so hard to adhere to the speed limits as from time to time displayed beside the roads of the United Kingdom?

In one sense I understand the thrust of the arguments and acknowledge  that any mitigation or points I might make in the cause of explaining my attitude and/or seeking to excuse my actions would have about as little effect as a saliva-laden paper pellet fired from a pea-shooter at a charging male hippo during the height of its species’ rutting season.

Nevertheless – at the risk of boring Rusters who have been with me previously when I have been speechifying upon the subject, some of them not infrequently – I would just say this.

I am not by nature a fast or aggressive driver of a motor vehicle. I’ve only ever been involved – so far – in a road traffic accident (or “RTA”) on one occasion in my entire life and that was not my fault: at the age of 20 or 21 I was proceeding at well under 30 mph in a built up area, on the inside lane of two, when – at a side-junction – a car suddenly came out from my left and hit my front passenger door amidships with a loud “thump”. Nobody was hurt and all that were damaged was the driver of the vehicle’s car front bonnet and the passenger side door on mine.

Ordinarily I drive about in good order – maintaining a suitable “stopping distance” between the car in front of me and mine – and keeping a generally look-out for idiots, whether they be pedestrians, fellow vehicle drivers or foreign giant articulated lorry drivers. (I used the word “giant” there in the context of the lorries, not their drivers).

My “weakness”, if it can be so described, is that I have never paid much attention to the signposts telling me what maximum speed I should be driving.

Why not?

Well, let us take a section of road upon which the speed limit is 50mph. If all around me is safe and acting as expected – and yet the driver of the car in front of me is proceeding at 56 mph in said 50mph (max) speed limit area – the great likelihood is that I shall also be travelling at 56mph … albeit, all the while keeping a “safe stopping distance” behind him or her.

What is so wrong about that?

I know the traffic police and indeed magistrates might delight in “nabbing” me for exceeding the speed limit – and, of course that is their privilege.

But I am driving safely and not in danger of harming anyone. Not that this matters a jot when it comes to the full majesty of the law.

As a result I shudder to think how many speeding convictions, how much cash I have had to shell out on either court fines and/or speeding offence “awareness” courses and – on two occasions – six months’ driving disqualifications I have had to serve over the past four and a half decades.

About eighteen months ago I picked up a speeding conviction (yes, for going 46mph in a 40 mph maximum zone) that cost me £76 and 3 points upon my licence. I was warned that – since this took me to a total of 12 penalty points in the last three year period –  this meant I was going to be automatically considered for the second time for a six months’ driving disqualification.

Because of the impact of the Covid pandemic it was seven months before my case came up before the beaks. Having been told by a magistrate friend that attempted mitigation was pointless because a judicial practice direction made it compulsory for magistrates to ignore all mitigation and dish out disqualifications come what may, I pleaded guilty and offered none. A disqualification was therefore inevitable and ended only last month.

Having by then passed the age of 70, I had to apply for an “Over-70s” driving licence. This arrived in April 2022 – and when it did I discovered that, instead of “taking into account” two more speeding convictions I had picked up in the month before my “disqualifying” magistrates court hearing took place .. and thereby leaving my brand new “Over-70s” driving licence free and unencumbered … de facto those two convictions (and their 2 x 3 point penalties) were emblazoned upon it!

Thus I was already half-way to what would be my third “totting up” driving disqualification before I even began driving again!

Moreover – in the past two months I have been prey to an extended wrestle with the motoring trace insurance industry. Of the first eight companies I contacted – five of them wouldn’t even take my call once they learned of my driving record, two others “baled on me” after taking fifty minutes or more to “fill out a form” via telephone before then deciding to “drop” me; and, of all things, the last came up with a quoted premium of £10,300 to insure me for 12 months!  (And this, as I took joy in pointing out to them when telling them to get stuffed, on a vehicle that is valued at only £4,000!).

Talk about rip-offs!

Anyway, to my point at hand.

I went driving yesterday for the first time in over eighteen months. It was a strange experience.

Part of me felt as if I had never been away and – apart from having to adjust the driver’s seat, wing mirrors and rear-view mirror to suit my height and body – it was a reassuring and enjoyable an experience as I could have possibly hoped for.

But the other part of me felt a bit weird. I did feel a bit nervous at getting into a driver’s seat once again after so long, but thankfully – by the end of an hour behind the wheel – I felt totally at home again.




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About Martin Roberts

A former motoring journalist, Martin lists amongst his greatest achievements giving up smoking. Three times. He holds to the view that growing old is not for the faint-hearted. More Posts