I got a speeding ticket through the post the other day.
I recognised the telltale pink slip through the little window of the envelope (not my first time I’m afraid...) and ripped it open as quickly as I could, praying I was just in for jury duty or something. No such luck. I’d been caught doing 59 in a 50 at motorway roadworks. Y’know, those ones that close the lanes down to a cars’ width a piece and make you really late for work? Is it really just me that thought motorway speed restrictions were more of a ‘suggestion’ – advisory, almost – than a hard and fast rule? Seems so.
I’ve been driving past these same M1 roadworks around junction 35 for four months. I’ve watched people zipping along at 55, 60 – in the case of some daredevils, a whopping 65 or 70 – and thought exactly the same thing: ‘It’ll be fine.’
My pretty pink letter begs to differ. The worst part is that this is my third such letter, which means my licence is now the proud owner of a dangerous nine points.
The annoying thing is I think I’m a good driver. And I don’t speed, not really. I mean, obviously I do, or I wouldn’t be having this problem, but my points have always been the result of doing 35 in a 30, or 45 in a 40; what I would consider minor speeding infractions. I see these cocky teenagers doing 110mph on the motorway or overtaking me dangerously doing 80 in a 30 zone and find myself thinking ‘why aren’t THESE people getting caught?’ And I especially hate those drivers I see talking on their phones in the driving seat (in full view of a traffic camera) without a care in the world.
Not that I’m belittling my crime. I’ve seen that video, the one where the driver hits the little girl at 30mph and she jumps up looking cross, versus the one where he hits her at 35mph and snaps her neck. It’s chilling. The day I was caught was a Sunday, 9.02am to be precise. I was driving back from a hen night in Nottingham and the road was deserted; no work crew, no other cars. So I got carried away, allowing my mind to wander, enjoying the feeling of the illicit wind (air con) in my hair and not noticing as the speedometer clicked above 50 to a law-breaking 59.
The day after the letter came through (on my birthday – thanks for that), I had to drive to Bradford for my best friend’s wedding. Bradford, for those who haven’t been, is speed camera central. It was the most unsettling drive of my life. I’ve never concentrated so hard on my speedometer and every passing road sign, in case the speed suddenly dropped from 40 to 30 and there was a camera lying immediately in wait – which happened a lot. I was so certain the Bradford police were around every corner, just waiting to take my licence and rip it gleefully into a million pieces, that I drove pretty much the whole way at 28mph, while people around me sped along, chatting on their mobiles and – in the case of one guy – eating a yoghurt whilst steering with his knees.
I was following the Father of the Bride, who clearly has a blank, carefree licence, and was growing increasingly frustrated by my snails’ pace.
“You know what you should do,” he suggested later, once we’d arrived and I’d explained about my impending prosecution. “You should put a nine in your back window, so that people following you will know why you’re driving so slowly and not get frustrated. I’ve seen people do it.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. A number nine. In my back window. To explain why I was unable to break the law.
Maybe, I argued, he should put a zero in HIS window, so that he could make a phone call, tear open a Muller Light, hop in his car and drive as recklessly as he liked, without ME getting frustrated.