What’s The Point Of Motoring Law?

Your super soar-away Sun newspaper recently reported (here if you want to read it) that our government has quietly binned some speed camera regulations. This means that some sneaky police forces have been using covert vehicles – tractors, horseboxes – to capture unwary motorists.

It is at this point that some Arthur Pewty type will say, in strangled tones, that, ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong then you’ve got nothing to worry about’. You, the driver, have been stuck behind him many times but the hated fact is, he’s not wrong.

The problem is that motoring law is not a level stretch of tarmac. If road safety were truly at the top of the agenda then all regulations would be enforced with the same vigour but that simply is not the case. The speed camera issue, however well intentioned in the beginning, is and always has been in my opinion, about revenue. The ‘authorities’ don’t really want to morally censure; they just want the money. Why else would they resort to such underhand methods? That’s what makes me sick. The fact is, the police are not enforcing other rules of the road with anywhere near the same rigour or indeed at all.

At the time of writing this you, Mr & Mrs Coffin-Nail, may no longer smoke in the car if your children are with you. In these enlightened times we know this makes absolute sense. The fact that your older children are smoking behind the bike sheds is neither here nor there – if you smoke in the car then you’re poisoning your kids. This is a good law but the problem is – who is going to enforce it?

Since the law came into force I have already seen adults smoking in cars with ankle-biters in the back. We know that there are many immensely dense people in the country for whom the daily news is just background noise but you can’t really argue that the law has not been well publicised. They must know, therefore they 1.) don’t care and 2.) know full well that nobody is out there to catch them.

The other day I was stationary at traffic lights and noticed that a van and a small truck of a local Swindon business had drivers who were both talking on handheld devices; I’m guessing to each other. The van turned off but later I was able to pull alongside the truck (handily at the same height as I was driving a massive pick-up) and point this out to the driver who at least had the good grace to look sheepish and switch the thing off. As an aside, I have been informed that tablets are the device du jour of some drivers in Coventry. I doubt this phenomenon is restricted to Godiva territory. They get away with it because there is very little chance of getting their collars felt.

Governments, as we know, will leap to attention when some shrieking single-issue minority gets on their case. Thus they profoundly discuss the matter in parliament and invent some new regulation (when not inventing expenses) to keep the voters happy; but they don’t really think it through.

For years now the cops have been starved of funding; numbers have been cut to the bone and the rank-and-file, I dare say, must be demoralised. We already know that if your house is burgled they are unlikely to turn up. The victims will just be told to claim on insurance but you can’t claim for the possible heartbreak such an event might cause or your need for retribution for your broken home.

The insurance companies will thus be forced to increase premiums – and they don’t need much encouraging in rip-off Britain. Wouldn’t it be good if, instead, we had a goodly number of thief-takers on the ground to discourage all but the recidivist hardcore and thus make our homes safer? And when they are not out catching miscreants they could be on our roads attending to drivers’ baser urges with a stern look or a warning, happy in the knowledge that they are helping to keep the roads safe.

There is absolutely no point in half-baked Westminster legislation if there’s nobody out there to back it up. They absolutely must know this. All they are doing is paying lip-service to public concerns without actually taking any action. Situation normal then.
Geoff Maxted