For reasons that I don’t really want to go into, I’ve had to do a lot of motorway driving recently. I must’ve done two thousand miles up and down the M1 between London and the North East. It’s exhausting, and not because you have to sit in the same position for an extended period of time, but because it’s so stressful.
Driving on the motorways of the UK is nothing short of playing a twisted game of Russian roulette. But not the kind that has you chamber the round, spin the cylinder, aim it at your head then pull the trigger. This is the kind they play in Géla Babluani’s 13 (Tzameti). The kind that has you chamber the round, spin the cylinder, point the gun at the guy in front you and pull the trigger. The kind where you choose to play the game but someone else kills you.
As I understand it the rules of motorway driving are relatively simple. They stipulate that you drive along the inside lane at no more than seventy miles an hour. The two adjacent lanes are intended for overtaking slower moving traffic. Once clear of the slower vehicle you should then return to the inside lane, all the time keeping the correct stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front.
Yesterday I did about five hundred miles. In no particular order here are a few of the things that happened. While overtaking an articulated lorry, the driver decide he wanted to overtake the vehicle in front and suddenly pulled out. I was lucky there was no one to my right. If I hadn’t pulled over as quickly as did he would’ve hit me.
On another occasion, on a fairly congested section of road, a car suddenly cut in front of me. I was forced to break hard or hit him. He just decided to pull over without following the basics of the highway code.
There were a series of incidents involving drivers who seem incapable of using the inside lane; the middle lane hogger. I approached one vehicle from a clear inside lane. There was no reason for the car ahead to be in the middle lane. Rather than undertake him, very easy to do but illegal, I had to cross to the outside lane. Not so bad until I got level with him and he woke up, decided he didn’t want to be overtaken and started to speed up. I returned to the inside lane as he pulled away. Five minutes later, a few more cars on the road and I overtook him?
On another congested stretch of road, caused in no small part by these cruise control junkies hogging the middle lane, I found myself in the outside lane. I maintained a steady speed, had enough distance between me and the car in front until someone pulled in front of me, halving the stopping distance I had built up.
This relatively minor action feeds a couple of other much more serious behaviours. There are the drivers doing significantly more than seventy miles an hour, who insist on driving bumper to bumper with the vehicle in front. They stack themselves up like cards ready for a death match of fifty two card pickup. The sister to this is the light flashing tailgater. At one junction somewhere past Sheffield I pulled into the outside lane to give those joining the motorway room to do so. I passed one car as it speeded down the slip road and watched in my rear-view mirror as they joined the motorway, cut across all three lanes of traffic, until they were behind me, lights flashing for me to pull over because apparently I was in their way.
I find this behaviour particularly infuriating. Vehicles doing well over the speed limit pulling in behind you and flashing their lights demanding you do something that usually isn’t possible. These are just a small percentage of the reckless behaviour I witnessed yesterday. I have no understanding of other road users behaviour.
Part of me thinks they’re the product of a society dominated by rampant self-interest. I’m the only person of worth, you lot are a hinderance to my progress, and should be forced to one side. Some might say this is just the law of the jungle. Survival of the fittest. You’re not fit enough to have the money to buy a massive SUV or Saloon car so you’re not fit enough to be on my roads.
I think on a very simple level the chaos of motorway driving is an indication of some fairly serious underlying social problems to do with a general lack of respect each of us has towards the other. Alternatively, there’s a kind of class war is being played out on the motorways. Just a thought?