Driven to distraction

Of course, to actually get too the Munro’s meant doing quite a bit of driving in the highlands. Which meant more of my favourite pet hate – Caravans and mobile homes. As inevitably if you’re driving on a narrow country road you’ll sooner or later run into a convoy of cars stuck behind one of these guys. While some do pull over (and ta to those who do!), many of their compatriots to the caravaning fraternity do not, forcing motorists to pull insane overtaking manoeuvres around them. I’m convinced that the Caravanning club has a competition each year in which the person how holds hostage the largest number of motorists gets some sort of spot prize.

Many of these caravanner’s also don’t seem to have very good vehicle control skills, which probably explains the slow speed and unwillingness to park up to let people by. I was behind this one for several miles into Fort William the other day. We both went into a supermarket, but she drove around than then drove out again. My guess is she couldn’t find two or three parking spaces next to each other to park up in, even though there were plenty of other similar sized mobile homes parked up in single spaces. Naturally my view would be if you don’t have the driving skills to handle a camper van, don’t drive one. I drive a nice wee small car because I’m comfortable with my ability to handle/park it never mind the benefits of lower fuel costs and better acceleration and maneuverability.

To me the solution would be have a rule that any caravanner caught by the cops with a big queue of cars behind him, who as not made a conscious effort to allow overtaking gets fined a tenner for each car behind him…which for the pair I saw coming into Tyndrum the other week with about twenty cars behind them, could be rather expensive!

I think part of what annoys me about caravan/mobile homes is the fact that it strikes me as a false economy. The parking up fees for these things are around about £15-20 and some caravan parks now charge a supplement per person as well (as I go camping I hear the sort of fees the caravanner’s are being charged), plus when it gets busy you have to book in advance (I say a couple being turned away, even in June up north). Once you factor in the extra fuel costs and washing the spit off you’re windshield ;D (from irate motorists) I’m doubtful it works out cheaper than staying in a B&B (which is about £20-30 per person per night in Scotland right now). In short caravanning seems to involve all the disadvantages of camping with the same costs as staying in hotel, but in a hotel/B&B someone else does all the cooking.

Hoggers

And speaking of people with poor vehicle control skills, wandering up and down the M6 meant inevitable encounters with some git hogging the middle lane of the motorway. I notice they are considering new powers to the police to tackle this problem.

What’s wrong with hogging the middle lane? Well first of all because the rules of the road do require you to drive as close to the roads edge as possible, after all if you’re in the middle lane and blow a tire, then what are you going to do? In the middle lane you also have traffic approaching from both sides, which means you need to keep a closer look out in you’re mirrors (indeed what infuriates me with most middle lane hoggers is that they don’t seem to look at their mirrors at all, so not only are the breaking the highways code but also driving without due care and attention). Also by occupying the middle lane you make it difficult for people to overtake you on the left (as required by the rules of the road), which effectively serves to cut the capacity of the motorway (by as much as a third according to the RAC) and also increases the temptation for people to undertake (which is illegal, but perhaps understandable when faced with a hogger).

That said, I think giving the cops new powers is going too far. For starters, why do we need new rules when its already against the highway code to drive like this? The cops have a habit of giving them an inch and taking a mile, look at speed cameras. I will admit for example that will I certainly don’t hog the middle lane, I may well “dwell” in it for extended periods if I’m overtaking lots of trucks or passing a busy junction and want to let people merge with the motorway. Of course all the while I’ll have my eye on the mirrors looking for someone trying to come up behind me and be ready to move out of the way. However, my fear is that the cops will simply regard this as another revenue raising mechanism.

To me the solution would be better education, i.e. stop the hoggers and caution them and if it happens again, nevermind fining them, make them attend a driver training course as I suspect 9 times out of 10 it boils down to the fact they don’t understand how motorways are supposed to work.

Barely legal drivers

And on that point I caught a few snipits of that BBC programme “Barely legal drivers” earlier in the year. I found it difficult to believe that learners are not allowed onto motorways or dual-carriage ways. While yes there are risks, they have to learn how to drive properly on motorways and such risks in a controlled environment (i.e. early on a weekend morning with a driving instructor next to them) has to be balanced against the alternative (the first time they end up on a motorway is a few weeks after the test on a wet rush hour evening).

Far from banning newly qualified drivers from Motorways (as the government proposes) I would go the other way and make motorway driving part of the test (not every test, but say one in ten, enough to make sure they do some practice and learn properly the theory part of it). Its precisely because people often have to learn motorway driving by the seat of their pants (being Irish I had to do this too!) that you end up with middle lane hoggers to begin with.

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