AA President's Blog

Season of good will?

A Christmas message from me

Season of good will?

There will be millions of cars on the roads across the Christmas period.

I have been driving a lot recently as Norwich City’s return to the Premier League means that my sons insist we visit far flung paces such as Burnley, Everton and Southampton. At least we came back with three points from Everton.

My recent motorway forays do highlight several issues. The first is the length of roadworks on our motorway network – particularly the M1 and parts of the M4. This is mainly due to stretches being converted to smart motorways. You will see from previous blogs that we have some issues with the lack of Emergency Refuge Areas to cater for the 38% of breakdowns that occur in live lanes. But my point here is more about the length and inconsistency in motorway speeds.

Back in 2015 Ministers urged that roadworks should be limited to two miles at a time, with a maximum of five miles in extreme cases. That obviously was never heeded. Work is currently under way on a 23.6 mile section of the M1 between junctions 13 and 16 by changing it to an All Lane Running smart motorway. Even within the roadworks the speed changes from 60mph to 50mph which seems to catch out many drivers.

In the dark and rain, it can be very draining driving on these stretches of road for long periods in narrow lanes often distracted by some of the bright construction lights. Some of the stretches are just too long even if two miles was a pipe dream.

But the bigger bugbear both in roadworks and elsewhere is the tailgaters. The drivers who assume it is fine to sit two feet off your bumper at 50mph in the wet. I don’t understand them. It is more difficult and stressful to drive in this manner. If the car in front brakes they must react rapidly. The lane of traffic is not going anywhere fast so back off and relax.

Sometimes I do gesture to them to back off or the boys stare at them through the rear window and most do. Many aren’t the typical boy racers in souped up cars but your ordinary male and female drivers in the average car. Perhaps their excuse is that most were never taught to drive on motorways and so don’t have a clue.

But the consequences of their collective actions are dire. I saw a five or six car pile up in the outside lane of the M1 the other day in the wet. There is no reason that a mistake up front should lead to five crashing at the rear if they all kept their distance. They didn’t.

And another thing. Several of them got out off their vehicles in the outside lane to take photos of the carnage as vehicles sped past in the other three lanes. Stupid and suicidal.

I digress. Back to Christmas.

Traditionally at this time of year we campaign that:

If you are going to drive. Don’t drink.

If you are going to drink. Don’t drive.

But this year after seeing tweets from Essex police to Northern Ireland and Scotland that advice must change to:

If you are going to do drugs. Don’t drive.

If you are going to drive. Don’t do drugs.

Whether it is the increased use of drug swipes by the police, or an increase in drug-taking, the figures suggest that drug driving is a bigger problem than drink driving in many areas. Anyway, stay clean and sober if driving. Lesson over.

Do have a safe and peaceful Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Edmund (18 December 2019)

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