Thursday, 6 June 2013

A Victory For Impatience

It's taken me a while to write this as I thought it best to calm down first. Because my exasperation at yesterday's news was off the scale.
Motorway tailgaters and middle-lane hoggers are to face quick justice with on-the-spot penalties under new measures announced by the government. 
From July, police will be able to issue £100 fines and three points for careless driving offences that would currently have to go to court.
So middle lane hoggers are 'dangerous' now, are they? Sorry, but that's quite a stretch, and that so many have swallowed this flimsy justification.and nodded along approvingly just shows how our country's definition of 'danger' has deteriorated in the past decade, and also how blasé about civil liberties our population has become.

Being in transport, I fucking hate middle lane hoggers very much more than most. They are ignorant of the guidelines of the motorway as well as being astoundingly ignorant people in themselves for their lack of courtesy for other road users. There have been times where I've struggled to comprehend how anyone can be so very unaware of what is happening around them.

However, when thinking rationally about them, they do little more than hold me up for a minute or two and cause me to execute a manoeuvre I'd rather not be doing. When driving professionally for as many years as I have, you learn to stay calm about many stupidities you see on the road, lane hoggers being just one of them.

But the public - who have all been mildly irritated by a hogger at some point - are quite happy about this legislative expression of vindictiveness despite it presenting the abandonment of road safety as a premise for state enforcement of punishment. Those few minutes added to a 200 mile journey are enough to break out the penalty charge version of torches and pitchforks, while the precedent ceded to those who simply shouldn't be allowed it is ignored.

Are politicians really now saying being a bit annoying on the road merits a £100 fine? Yes, it seems they are. We all hate lane hoggers, don't we, so it's fine and MPs will be lauded ... there may even be a lot of votes in it, eh? It's nothing to do with road safety any more, even though some will try to say it is.
The issue comes down to safety, Heydecker says. While he doesn't accept that lane hoggers significantly reduce motorway capacity, they do raise drivers' blood pressure by their behaviour.
So the 'danger' would appear to be the road rage it might cause in impatient drivers. If you want safer roads, wouldn't it be better not to validate drivers who are prone to raising their own blood pressure for something as easily - even if inconveniently - countered by simply "mirror, signal, manoeuvre". If that's too difficult, perhaps they shouldn't be on the road either.

We've seen public health laws based on pretend health threats to satisfy the intolerant; now we're seeing the DfT invent road dangers to pander to the impatient.

A driver happy about the new rule, pictured yesterday
Of course, we could just eradicate the problem entirely by allowing undertaking as was being discussed by politicians only a few years ago - if it's legal in the US and Australia, how difficult can it be? But that would mean the ratchet going the wrong way. We don't liberalise in this country any more, merely pass legislation to punish.

I mentioned civil liberties because it's something that no-one spoke about in all the blanket coverage yesterday.

Objections were almost exclusively about how it would be difficult to enforce, not that it shouldn't be enforced in the first place (and I hope it won't be, just like the ridiculous child booster seat nonsense).

The nation's foremost state-funded road safety fake charity, BRAKE, were quick to say that they loved the idea ... except that the fine should be £1000! Well, I suppose they would, it was like government handing them a blank cheque for future grant applications, just imagine the studies they can commission; the criticism they can lay on authorities which don't levy enough fines. They also called for lane hogging to be made a criminal offence which, of course, leads to a criminal record and all that it entails.

That smug schadenfreude doesn't look too clever now, does it?

Meanwhile, no-one seemed to worry that the police are now to be judge, jury and executioner on who is lane hogging and who isn't. If they simply don't like you for any reason, wham! £100 fine for being in the middle lane 30 seconds too long sunshine, have a nice day.

The unintended consequences this silly idea will facilitate are simply not worth appeasing the misplaced superiority some road users think they wield over others. It won't make anyone safer, either.

Middle lane hoggers can go to Hell as far as I'm concerned, but I hope this Westminster stupidity goes the same way well before them.

See also: Another pathetic road rule proposal last year based similarly on nothing but selfishness and intolerance.


woodsy42 said...

Will this lane hogging law be used to fine lorry drivers who pull out in a speed limited truck to overtake another speed limited truck locked to the same speed and then cause a rolling road block that can last miles?
That's the only lane hogging that affects me on almost every journey.

nisakiman said...

Speed limiters on trucks are a stupidity which can only have been legislated by people who have not only never driven a truck, but who also haven't even considered the realities of the situation. When I returned to UK from Aus in '79, I did a spell of six months or so driving semis (artics), and the fact that the Volvo I was driving would only do 68mph drove me nuts. I was used to driving much faster trucks on the Melbourne - Sydney run. Six months of trawling up and down the motorways at 68 max was as much as I could take, and I haven't driven Class 1 since. Had there been a 56mph limiter then, I probably wouldn't have lasted 6 days!

As for middle lane hoggers, yes, they are a pain in the arse, but as you say, DP, when you have spent years as a professional driver you assume the default position that everyone else on the road is a fuckwit and drive accordingly. Getting stressed about it is a waste of time and energy. You just deal with it. Legislating for what is just bad road manners will do nobody any favours. Except the boys on traffic patrol of course, who will have carte blanche to harass anyone whose jib they don't like the cut of.

David Brown Manchester said...

All the media and political cover of this story has missed the main point, as of now, as far as I am aware, there is no law which gives the police the power to stop and levy imediate fines on motorists (please corect me if I am wrong). As you say in your piece the police can now act as prosicutor, judge and jury. All this talk about lane hoggers and tail gaters is just to get a law passed, once it is passed it can/will be expanded to include anything either politicians or police forces want to include.
This is a precident of huge porportions, The police have a track record in extending various laws in order to cover things not origionally intended in the legislation. "The changes will give the police powers to issue fixed penalty notices for careless driving"
The proposed legislation can cover anything and is not specific to hoggers and tailgatters this is a mammoth change in the law and no one seems to really appreciate it.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

"you assume the default position that everyone else on the road is a fuckwit and drive accordingly"

I wish I'd put it like that. ;)

But yes, that's how I cope on the roads. In the early 90s when I started as a multi-drop, I'd get really irritated by all kinds of annoying drivers and do the screaming, leaning on the horn etc. But I soon found that the only person it was hurting was me, and it didn't get te drops done any quicker. Nowadays, I react to stupidity on the roads with a resigned sigh, it's far more relaxing.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Indeed. Police do tend to have a poor track record of mission creep, don't they?

Isn't it true, also, that the Highway Code is not a law per se, merely guidance. If all it says is to be turned into punishable offences, that is a huge amount of new fines the police could argue they should be issuing on the basis of Wednesday's proposal.

JonathanBagley said...

Yes, the issue here is not middle lane hogging. As police spokesmen have pointed out, this comes under driving without due care and attention or some such, as does mobile phone use. It is about the extension of on the spot fines.

jaycas said...

The real reason is just to generate more dosh from the serfs, isn't it.

Tigerrr said...

Given there are so few police on the motorways it won't take long for the powers to be extended to the wombles.

Longrider said...

In practice, I don't see it coming off. Too many variables. Some lane hoggers are blindingly obvious, however, many of them will argue - probably successfully if it came to court - that they were justified due to the conditions. Simply hogging the lane is not driving without due care and attention anyway. It is selfish and arrogant, it is deeply annoying, but that is all.

I've been discussing this one from a slightly different perspective - both the Groan and the Torygraph have published articles from people proud to hog. Now, they should be taken out and shot...

moonrakin said...

Ah well, at least they haven't invited Ryan Air to take over the running of the DVLA tax disc web site - yet...

Just more goons out and about trying it on really.

Michael J. McFadden said...

OK... I generally try to avoid writing about stuff I don't know anything about, but this truly puzzles me, as someone who has NEVER gotten a traffic ticket or hogged a lane. (or ... hmm... actually driven.)

If there are three lanes and the slow one is going 40kph, the middle one 60kph, and the fast one 80kph, shouldn't I just pick one and stay in it? If I want to travel at 60, isn't it less safe if I keep veering in and out of the 40 lane? And if I want to travel faster than 60 and someone is steadily tooling along at 60, wouldn't I just move over to the 80 lane?

Note my disclaimer about my driving experience here... but I can't see the problem (unless we're talking about people moving to the middle lane and just sitting there at the same slow lane speed... is that it?)

MJM, the bicyclist, and if I'm going over 40kph you better speed up cuz there's sure something nasty coming down the road behind me...

Michael J. McFadden said...

You've reminded me of a joke in this area:


The Difference Between Grandmothers & Grandfathers -

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Grandmothers and Grandfathers? Well, here it is: There was this loving grandfather who always made a special effort to spend time with his son's family on weekends. Every Saturday morning he would take his 7-year-old granddaughter out for a drive in the car for some quality time -- just him and his granddaughter.

One particular Saturday, however, he had a bad cold and really didn't feel like being up at all. He knew his granddaughter always looked forward to their drives and would be disappointed. Luckily, his wife came to the rescue and said that she would take their granddaughter for the drive.

When they returned, the little girl anxiously ran upstairs to see her grandfather who was still in bed. "Well, did you enjoy your ride with grandma?" he asked. "Oh, yes, Grandpa, it was really wonderful. We didn't see a single asshole, piece of crap, horse's ass, blind bastard, dipshit, goat humper or son of a bitch anywhere we went!"

Almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?