The Summer breeze, that big sky, the soft, secret smell of jasmine in the perfumed air; these are the joys of convertible motoring. Yes folks, it’s that time of year again when we kid ourselves that our winter of discontent will finally be made glorious summer. Well, sorry to rain on your open-top parade but even as I write, it is chilly, there’s a cold wind blowing with just a hint of rain in the air. June is just around the corner and we know that our driving life won’t be quite so poetic.
For ’tis the season of roadworks and the idea of the freedom of the road soon dissipates like the promises of a pernicious politician. You’ve got to think ahead especially if you are planning on a trip somewhere new. Lanes will be closed, average speed cameras will spout like virulent weeds at the side of the road (there’s some on the M5 now) and traffic jams will form as if by magic.
Summer also brings out the erratic nature of drivers. People who have spent the last eight months or so driving locally in whatever vile place they live will suddenly take it upon themselves to explore pastures new, often in unsuitable beach apparel. Just ask the poor, blighted souls who live along the A30 in cream-tea Devon and pesky pisky, risky pasty Cornwall. They know what’s coming.
With their minds on their holiday and long-hoped-for casual sex, other drivers should be on alert for distracted motorists driving erratically – they may well be unfamiliar with the area and change lanes unexpectedly.
Also, in your desire to get away from it all it’s important to stay alert in unfamiliar territory. Watch out for lanes that are closed to cars, contraflows (with their attendant all-seeing eyes), one-way streets and sudden bus lanes. Bus lanes are set up for two reasons: (1) to allow public transport to stay on schedule and (2) to extort money from hapless motorists who don’t know the area – you don’t want to end up paying a heavy fine.
In unfamiliar city centres yellow box junctions are monitored by cameras and will often result in a fine if used incorrectly. Box junctions make sense but my goodness they don’t make any allowance for innocent error, not when there’s good money to be had to make up for the shortfall in council funding.
Because the British Summer is such a fleeting, transient thing we, the drivers, have a tendency to forget ourselves as we turn our faces to the sun like dainty daisies. We know that, in winter, the roads can be dangerous, so we’re mostly on the ball but in Summer we forget the basics and, because we forget, we make mistakes.
Just because the sun is out it doesn’t mean that everything changes. Continue to check your mirrors because you don’t know what’s bearing down on you. As someone who has experienced first-hand the pandemonium that occurs when an angry wasp gets in the car I know how distracting – not to mention terrifying – this can be.
But it is not fair for me to single out drivers as the only culpable group. In Summer, inhibitions and under-garments are cast aside (especially in Newquay FYI). Pedestrians and cyclists forget themselves and/or think they own the road and will make sudden alarming changes of direction without notice at any time. Excited children can run out; pets are off the lead; hazards abound. That’s the trouble with us Brits. We get sun-struck, so rare are its pleasures, and we forget ourselves.
Drivers get lost despite the magic of satellite navigation. They miss their turning or exit and panic, often acting irrationally, like reversing back down off-ramps on motorways (It happens! There are some very stupid people out there). In getting lost, attention is taken from the road ahead as peering eyes search for clues or junctions instead of seeing the back of your motor as they hurtle blindly towards it.
All I’m saying is let’s be careful out there. In the UK we crave sun like a thirsty man in a desert craves water. There is, if you like, an extra set of rules of the road for the warmer months and we forget them at our peril. Happy holidays! Geoff Maxted