Alternatives to speed

Picture the scene. I’m driving sedately in my family car across the desolate moors of Derbyshire, in particular the High Peak area of North West England, the far side of Macclesfield. It’s a long, fairly straight road, but there are some vicious bends in it, and if you take them too fast you can end up in the ditch, your car a write-off. Maybe that’s why some sections of the road have a 50 miles per hour speed limit. It’s known as a dangerous place to drive, and also fairly renowned for having more than its fair share of motorbike traffic. (It seems the ‘Easy Riders’ like the twists and turns and enjoy the risk. They’re asked not to: there are posters at intervals along the road warning them to slow down. They regularly ignore the injunctions. So motor bike riders regularly crash, especially in wet weather.)

This day I’m talking about is fortunately dry. I’m keeping up a good speed, but well within the limit. I don’t want to dawdle, because I know that it can annoy those people following. Sure enough, that day, there is a car a few metres behind me, pressing hard, trying to get past. He seems in a bit of a hurry, so, as I want to be helpful, I go as fast as I can (or, strictly speaking, as fast as we are both allowed). He doesn’t care about that, he just wants to get ahead. Not surprisingly, he seizes the first chance he can get. As we come down round a bend, he swings out and hammers past me, his engine racing. He didn’t judge it very well. The road ahead seemed clear for a while, but a car comes round the bend ahead of us, and my overtaker has to pull in abruptly in order to avoid a collision.

Firstly, he took a chance, an unnecessary risk, simply in order to get ahead. It doesn’t help his journey. A mile further on is a junction and I caught him up there. Slightly further on are traffic lights, and he was forced to stop there too. So, simply because he didn’t like his position on the road – behind me – he put all our lives at risk. If he had crashed his car, it might have caused me to come off the road too, plus the people in the car coming towards us. The slightest misjudgement could have been fatal. Being in pole position didn’t speed up his journey because it’s such a winding road that he couldn’t build up enough speed to really get ahead of me. That was a mistake.

Still, let’s be fair. He had a car that looked impressive. It was more modern than mine, and made all the right noises. Surely he was entitled to race it? Not if his bad driving put our lives at risk. Second, not if he broke the law, i.e. the speed limits, which were clearly marked and surely there for all our sakes. Anyway, let’s think about that. Do we know it was his car? It might have belonged to his employer. Would his boss have encouraged him to hammer his vehicle, knowing it would shorten the serviceable life of the car? What if – more likely – the car belonged to the bank? Yes, we don’t like to think about it, but it’s a fact that when we ‘buy’ things on credit then they don’t actually belong to us, not until they’re paid off. ‘His’ car might be yet another consumer possession that the man was able to use, but hadn’t quite paid for yet – and therefore didn’t actually own.

Fourthly, why was he in such a hurry anyway? Now, his employer might be involved at this stage. Maybe he had given the man orders about being at such-and-such a place, to meet a certain person at such a time. Me, I was ambling along because it was early afternoon. I had fulfilled my appointments for the day and was heading home. (The joys of self-employment!) So, our ‘boy racer’, in his brand new car, isn’t a person to be envied all that much, if his time is not his own, and he is ‘racing’ to perform business that won’t actually make him rich and is someone else’s priority.

What a disappointment! I may be guessing, but I think that young man in his shiny car was pretty full of himself. He was gunning the engine and assuming that other drivers were envying him, his flash motor and his fast-paced lifestyle. He would be horrified to hear that observers were, in reality, feeling sorry for him, the stresses placed upon him and the way he was wasting his time and energy. Sound familiar? How many of us want to be admired? There’s an obvious way to get that. Just go out and do something worthwhile. It might be difficult, of course. But don’t expect that you can take the easy way out and simply show off your glossy possessions for the populace in order to earn their admiration automatically. Their pity, maybe, but driving fast cars recklessly, as part of a non-stop, busy lifestyle, is simply a sign of bad time-keeping. Nothing to admire there.