My daily commute to work should, in theory, be a stress free and enjoyable trek and to be fair, most of the time it is. Residing in leafy West Sussex, we are far away from London to avoid all the hubbub and trauma that comes with the Metropolis, yet close enough to it should we decide to go there.
The M23 fades away turning into a meandering dual A road to the Brighton coast once you jab the indicator stalk towards the Horsham junction at Pease Pottage and the unimaginatively titled Horsham By-pass turns into the A24 to Worthing, a nice dual carriageway with some disturbingly good views. Yes we get the usual rush hour traffic around here, but that’s all it is and then it’s gone.
Horsham in general, like most of the Sussex and Surrey terrain, has an above average number of older folk living with its Parishes, if I was 15 years younger I would be crying with boredom as NOTHING ever traumatic or remotely worrying (unless Mr Adams pays a visit) ever happens.
The only real issue I have with Sussex off peak motoring is the disturbing number of near misses us comparatively younger drivers endure on a day to day basis. If its not badly piloted yummy mummies veering around the road in their Q7 as they try to apply their Max Factor whilst sodding around on a blackberry whilst dressing little Timmy for school, its Mr & Mrs Oldscroat bimbling along in a Honda Jazz in a true Mr Magoo fashion.
What is it with some older drivers? They jump red lights, almost kill cyclists, drive the wrong way on motorways and knock the hell out of your car door whilst parking at Sainsburys, yet they qualify for cheaper insurance – in the words of Jack Regan ‘its all bloody wrong my son’.
A prime example of this I will share with you – today, driving home from work, out of peak traffic, I’m proceeding straight on at a roundabout. Bear in mind that I am already on said roundabout, an elderly couple driving a 58 plate Zafira jump right into my path. Needless to say, the last time my ABS worked was at the MoT test and had I not been paying attention, there would have been sh*t & feathers everywhere.
Of course, he got the obligatory five second blast of pre project drive twin tones and I heard the Passat behind me trying to avoid stencilling his Volkswagen logo in the boot lid of my Rover 75. What came next was nothing short of staggering, he had the gall to follow me into a nearby filling station to vent his spleen with regards to my toot-a-thon.
Almost falling out of his Vauxhall, he was so bow legged that he wouldn’t have stopped a runaway pig in an alley, as he ranted at me of all people. I asked him what the prime directive is when approaching a roundabout – especially one on a national speed limit dual carriageway. The usual rubbish about how he had been driving for 900 years blah blah blah cut no mustard with yours truly, and he got a bit from me.
I reminded him that giving way to traffic from the right is always a good idea, as is having legal tyres (the NSF was knackered on the outer edge – a sure sign of constant kerbing). I also added that had I ALSO not been paying attention, 15cwt of Rover would have rammed his drivers door and more likely than not, killed him. Now I watched him draw up to the give way markers at his junction of the aforementioned roundabout and his neck did not even move, he made no effort to look right whatsoever.
His Zafira also sported a nice big dent in the front wing too, and I’ll hazard a guess who was to blame for that. Sufficed to say, I was getting nowhere with the old sod, so I simply walked away from him and paid for my fuel – it was the only and kindest thing to do this side of punching him up the conk!
But it doesn’t end there dear friends, ten minutes later on the same fast road, I was following one of those pointless Smart For Two Jobbies (just what is smart about a plastic car that makes you look either fat or stupid – or both exactly?) approaching a big cross road, the speed limit checks you down from 70 to 50mph in anticipation of the lights changing sequence.
It’s a notorious junction with speed cameras, red light cameras and SO19 snipers all ready to catch a gambling motorist or Audi A6 pilot, but there is sensible anticipation and there’s sheer stupidity. Without any reason, he sharply applied his brakes whilst the green light was showing causing yours truly to take evasive action.
A quick glance into the chrome plated door mirror confirmed a quick death by Volvo Globetrotter would be inevitable should I decide to hop into the outside lane, so I had no option but to anchor up to avoid a shunt. After slowing down to an incredulous TWENTY FIVE mph and then bumbling away again, he gleaned an obligatory burst from the 75s elegant quad headlamps.
As I eventually overtook said giffer, he was also an elderly man who gave me a hard stare akin to the glare I threw back. Arriving home, I almost ran inside and locked the door thankful in the knowledge that I was safe again, but after brewing the tea that I sit here sipping while pondering – it all confirms what I and many others have been saying for years.
We need to have compulsory re-testing in this Country, especially for the senior driver as many of them learned to drive when record players were clockwork and everything was made of bake-o-lite. And before some of you start clucking, some old folk are bloody good drivers. One fella who’s car I used to service (a 75 in fact) is well into his 70s and can drive the wheels off any car and is still as sharp as a master cutlers knife drawer – but oh so many are sadly not.
Up and down the land, the same stories hit the news – old ladies driving the wrong way on the M11 for 20 miles, pensioner kills cyclist, 85 year old man drives into someone’s living room… and so on – and it needs to stop.
I truly believe that a mandatory re-test or at the very least, a hazard perception test should be the law for every motorist who hits 60 and then say every five years thereafter. Its natural that we all slow down as we get older, I’ve certainly noticed that since turning 40 earlier this year, but by taking a pro-active stance we will make the roads safer.
On a personal level, in five years time when I hit 45, I will have to take a compulsory medical to keep my own PSV and HGV licences and every five years thereafter, so what’s the difference? None, and its all in the duty of safety and I for one have no problem with that. So why has compulsory re-testing never happened despite public outcries?
I’ll bloody tell you why, the largest percentage of people who, come rain or shine, always cast their vote at election time are the senior citizens. It would be a very brave party indeed that would hold that white paper aloft, and whoever brought it into legislation would loose such a huge chunk of votes, not even the promise of free Sanatogen or Werthers Originals would win them back.
So in the meantime, keep ’em peeled for Mr or Mrs Magoo – not just in Sussex, but everywhere!