One of those false assumptions that gets challenged all too rarely is that owning and driving a car is a right, such is the dominance of car culture. It is not, and there are good reasons why: before the advent of driving tests (for instance) accident rates were appalling. The coming of speed limits, also held to be a constraint on freedom, was similarly motivated.
What's f***ing wrong with my readers speeding, c***?!?
Instead, anything that imposes discipline on motorists – usually on pain of fine and licence endorsement – is immediately branded part of the fictitious “war on the motorist”. So it has been with the announcement of “on the spot” fines for a variety of careless and downright inconsiderate driving, such as using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and persistent bad lane discipline.
This has not gone down well with the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, who does not do much driving – he has a chap to do that sort of thing for him – but knows that many Daily Mail readers believe that their motors are a symbol of freedom to use the country’s road system as they damn well please. So he has ordered Stephen “Miserable Git” Glover over the top to attack the proposals.
“I admit it - I hog the middle lane. But how will picking my pocket make our roads safer?” he blusters, so that’s a hundred notes and three points to Misery Guts from Northcliffe House, officer, when you’ve got a moment. Yes, motoring fines are not really fines, they’re “picking my pocket”, because misbehaving on the roads isn’t really a crime, because law-abiding citizens do it, see?
Er, no, I don’t see: breaking the law is breaking the law is breaking the law, and that’s that. But Glover has other ideas: “I have always thought it should be left to the judgment of adults as to whether they wear a seat belt”. Well, it’s the law, so tough titty. But he has a problem with on-the-spot fines: these will cause our Police to resemble the French! And they talk foreign! And they outvote us in Brussels!
So frightened readers are told of people being frogmarched (geddit?!?) to cashpoints, but “on the spot” refers to being given the fine, not having to hand over the dosh. Then he admits that Police can already issue such fines for using a hand-held mobile or not wearing a seat belt. So he blusters that “It’s doesn’t seem British”. No, obeying the law doesn’t seem British.
But paranoia, British or otherwise, seems to always be on the Mail’s menu: “Isn’t it likely that over-zealous police, emboldened by their new powers, will pick on motorists who may be driving in a manner that is irritating but not in any way dangerous?” he asks. And the answer is no: traffic law is written so as not to be ambiguous. Hence speed limits are speed limits all day, traffic or no.