THERE ARE THREE SPEEDS on motorways: fast, faster and “For goodness sake, slow down, Brian!” Safe driving is easy if you follow the golden rule of the highway-code: manoeuvre, mirror, hand signal. Getting off a motorway is simple because the exits are helpfully numbered and are easy to spot – especially for the drivers of the five big trucks that suddenly get between you and the sign at the crucial moment.
Service-stations are spaced at exactly the time it takes for a cup of tea to pass through your digestive system plus half-an-hour. Many people make the mistake of relaxing after turning into a service-station. This is when you take the wrong lane that puts you straight back onto the motorway just as your bladder muscle becomes totally relaxed.
Some people drive incredibly close behind you, and nothing you can do will shake them off. Eventually you realise that you’ve got your rear-view mirror badly adjusted and the person tailgating you is actually your Granddad sitting quietly in the back seat.
On motorways they now have big illuminated signs saying, ‘Tiredness Can Kill. Take a Break’. But most people are too tired to read these signs – or, if they do read them, they take their eyes off the road just as a fuel-tanker cuts in front of them. More effective signs would say something like ‘Slow down, Brian, you’re driving like an idiot!’ All Brians would definitely take notice, and everyone who wasn’t Brian would be on the lookout for this madman.
Motorway driving is fairly dull, and it’s a great time to chat away on your mobile phone. This must be done hands-free as, by law, your hands must be available for eating your sandwiches, reading your map, clipping your toenails and so forth.
Interestingly, 12% of the total radio output in this country is traffic reports. These reports are divided into letting you know that you’re currently sitting in a big hold-up, and telling you of minute traffic incidents at the far end of the country that aren’t even affecting the people involved. All traffic reports work on the flawed premise that there’s an alternative to being on the road you’re on. Unless you grew up within 5kms of the traffic-jam, and know the locality intimately, there isn’t.
They say that speed and tiredness are the big killers on motorways. They only say this because it actually sounds silly to say that Abba CDs and Imperial Mints are the big killers. But they definitely are, because the CD player is what you’re looking at and the glove compartment is what you’re reaching for when you depart this world.
© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.