I haven’t looked up the average sentence for dangerous driving. You can bet it’s not much though. Who knows, there may not even be a sentence any more, given overcrowding in prisons and all that. On Monday morning nine people were in hospital, two seriously injured, following a horrific crash on the M25 between a minibus and a transit van. According to reports, someone has been arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving.
Anybody who has to drive on motorways knows that there are a lot of lunatics in charge of vehicles. One of them passed me and a number of other drivers at about midday on Sunday not long before the accident on that very section near Staines. All the lanes were full, of course, with people doing between 60 and 80mph and barely anybody, even if they wanted to, was able to observe and sustain a sane stopping distance for more than a few seconds at a time. So just another day on a British motorway.
Then we saw it. A black saloon that must have been doing 90mph weaved between the tight spaces across all lanes and back again, before vanishing into the distance ahead of us. It was as if you could hear a collective gasp or a chorus of expletives from all the drivers and passengers who witnessed it. I immediately cut my speed in the middle lane in the grim expectation of a catastrophic pile-up. There must have been quite a few people who were endangered by this particular maniac, but we all dodged a bullet this time. The question is, what if anything can be done about drivers like this in the interests of preventing of people being maimed or killed in the ensuing carnage?
Here are a few thoughts. Drivers behave in this way because they can. They know they’ll get away with it in the absence of any evidence. What needs to happen, then, is that at any one time we have just a dozen patrol drivers going around the 120-mile orbital that is so often lethal for the poor devils needing to be on it, some of them day in and day out. This would mean that at any one time there is, give or take, a ten-mile stretch where there is a dashboard camera ready to observe and record criminally dangerous driving. That includes overtaking on the inside and threading between vehicles across all lanes. It is somebody doing that at any speed on a motorway who is the life-threatening menace, not somebody doing 83mph in the outside lane. It is these people that the cameras need to pick up. It is these people who need to face prosecution as a result of recorded evidence.
When they are convicted, rather than handing out a custodial sentence at considerable cost to the state, courts could order the seizure and sale of their vehicle(s). Proceeds could go into funding care and rehabilitation of road accident victims. There would also be a fine starting at, for the sake of argument, £10,000 and also, of course, a lifetime ban on driving. Those living in the neighbourhood of the felon could be leafleted to ask for communication with authorities to advise of any breach of the ban. A busybody’s charter? Yes, but one that could save lives. In other words, a good one. Disregard of said driving ban would mean further seizure of assets as well as a custodial sentence.
If it sounds draconian, that’s okay. At the moment, there is no effective deterrent against drivers behaving like morons. It wouldn’t take that much organising. You could have a driver patrol service drawn from an army of volunteers who are remunerated for every mile they do of the M25 circuit, checking in and out at, say, Clacket Lane Services. If we want to involve the Big Society that David Cameron once envisaged, what about giving a road tax discount to drivers who have a dashcam fitted? This would widen the trawl of admissible evidence to be used against motorway maniacs. And if they help get a maniac nicked, they get a discount on next year’s tax too. Worth a go, surely? Not just because it would cost a lot less than police time, emergency services and air ambulances, but because it could save lives. Being on driver patrol could be seen as a civic endeavour, like jury service or serving on the council, for which one receives expenses. Heaven knows something needs doing about these zones that in the age of mass distraction from the job in hand (in this case concentration on the road) have become very much places to enter at one’s own existential peril.
Maybe somebody could pick this up as another little idea for floating at the Birmingham conference? Like the great rip-off of waiting staff’s tips by unscrupulous employers. Pity that got over-complicated and lost, though, with stuff about legislation taking time to go through. You’d think somebody might have said, ‘But in the meantime, before we make it law, just make sure when you go out for a meal you have between you a fiver, a tenner, and a few coins – work out what to leave and leave it for those who have waited on you.’ Fairly straightforward. Like catching and punishing motorway maniacs.