Pretty much every Saturday morning it is my pleasure to treat the Wokingham Wonder to a run out so that I can buy her a late breakfast and give her the chance to spend her pension.
We don’t go quite as far afield as we used to, but we have a selection of decent city or town centres all no more than 45 to 50 miles from home and that provide a nice run through the Cotswolds, the Mendips or over the Marlborough Downs. So a nice relaxed drive will see us parking up at our destination of choice about an hour after I’ve fired up Jennifer Jaguar on the driveway at home.
Now I say a nice relaxed drive, and that is what I aim at. On the dual carriageway I can lock down cruise control at 70 mph (indicated, actually about 67.5) and drive for much of the distance with the occasional touch of the thumb on the Resume button to get us out and back into the cruise.
But every Saturday for the last 5 weeks we’ve passed at least one accident site on the way home (one black Saturday there were three in the space of 20 miles). Flashing lights, clumps of people standing round with mobile phones pressed to their ears, emergency services in attendance and bits of car and assorted fluids to avoid.
Amongst the common denominators are that these accidents have all been at either where a dual carriageway narrows to single, or at an exit or entrance slip road (or ramp for my US readers) and that they have all been the result of someone desperate to shove their way in or out of the traffic.
So what price are these people paying for that extra 15 feet of tarmac that they were so desperate to occupy? Not only has someone spoiled their own day out they have ruined someone else’s and, if the traffic tailback gets heavy, inconvenienced many others. And then there are longer term consequences for all parties in terms of loss of transport, cost and so on (as well as for all of us in the rising cost of our insurance cover).
Does it really matter that much to overtake just one more car before the exit? Can you not just slow and lose a couple of seconds to make sure that you join the traffic flow safely?
Trading a bit of paint and a bit of panel damage seems to me to be a pretty stupid value to put on a short piece of highway, but in one accident site we passed yesterday someone was so desperate for a short stretch of Mr McAdam’s finest that they traded their life.
So I’ll ask again; what price 15 feet of tarmac?