Monday, 21 April 2014


If you were there I feel your pain. By now you too will have received your letter from the Gardai, informing you that you were speeding. You’ll have two points on your licence and be €80 lighter after paying your fines.

The speed limit was 50 kph and I was doing 64 kph, which means my car was moving at the mind-bending nosebleed-inducing speed of 39mph in the old money.

So yes, I'm guilty as charged. It's a fair cop Guv, as they say where I'm from. I'm a criminal, a dirty filthy law-breaker, so slap those penalty points on my licence before my insurance premium starts to look affordable.

Actually I’m not sure that speeding counts as a crime. It’s more of an offence. If there is a crime being committed here, it concerns the way that our collective insurance companies will be creaming money off our bad luck.

Yes, I did say bad luck. There are places where it is essential to have a speed limit of 50 kph. I’ve seen the TV ads that tell us if you hit a child at 50 kph it has an 80% chance of survival, but if you’re travelling at 80kph, it has a 50% chance of fatal injuries. That’s a pretty powerful argument, so I wouldn't count myself ‘unlucky’ if I was caught speeding in a built-up area, where children might be playing.

But this wasn’t a built-up area. This was the road from Galway to Moycullen, as it pushes through Bushy Park. Yes, there are houses along it, big homes lived in by people who have quite possibly lobbied to have this speed limit imposed. The Camera Van was parked in the lay-by in front of the church which, to be fair, seems permanently busy with visitors, worshippers and events.

So impose a 50kph limit for 300 metres each side of the church, to protect the innocent humans, and let the limit beyond and before rise to a reasonable 80 kph.

How do I know that others have been charged too? That’d be because I remember the precise time and place we committed our collective offences.

It was a calm sunny Spring afternoon, and I was driving along in a steady stream of traffic. For once, there was nobody tailgating. Not a boy racer in sight. All of us drivers were keeping well apart from each other, easily in range of our braking distances.

The world felt like an unusually safe and civilised place. I think I was whistling tunelessly along to a Mozart violin concerto, daring to enjoy myself, and then I saw the Camera Van parked by the church.

At the time I remember thinking to myself that if they nicked me, they’d have to nick everyone else in that steady stream of traffic. Little did I suspect that they intended to do exactly that.

Really, if you want to catch as many people speeding as possible at once, just take an aerial photo of Quincentennial Bridge at any off-peak time. Nobody keeps to the speed limit there. Indeed, if they did all drive at no more than 50kph, it would cause such consternation among other drivers that it might cause reckless driving.

Mind you, there are times when slow driving really works. When the same bridge is clogged with traffic, the dreaded wave pattern of logjam comes into effect. The light goes green up ahead and a ripple of movement slowly makes its way down the traffic jam, causing us all to move a little; stop; move a little; stop.

Studies have shown that if we all just crawl along at a minuscule rate, the wave pattern disappears and we all get home earlier. In the UK they proved that if everyone drove along busy motorways like the M6 at 40 miles an hour, average journey times would be halved. 

Seems mad, because most of the time the majority of the traffic is cruising along at 80mph, but when the sheer volume of traffic collects together, causing everyone to stop, that makes the average speed collapse.

In the USA, where they understand speed, all cars slow to 25mph around schools, and when the school bus flashes its lights, everyone stops. It’s heartwarming and efficient.

Also Americans can be charged with the offence of slow driving. Bloomin’ brilliant! 

Back when I lived in north Co. Mayo, I used to get stuck for miles behind a Father Jack lookalike who drove his Berlingo van everywhere at 22 mph. After miles of frustration, I’d risk life, limb, stone walls and wildlife trying to overtake him on narrow country roads, faced with the peril of oncoming tractors bearing down on me at speeds in excess of milk floats.

Crawling into the town behind his van one day, I saw a friend of mine laughing by the roadside.

"What’s so funny?" I asked.
“The expression on your face!” she replied, explaining how the auld fella in the van was blind.
“Yeh, he must be. Shouldn’t be allowed on the road.”
“No, no, he is blind! Really and truly blind! He drove that same road into town every day for 35 years, so now that he has lost his sight he just drives it by memory.”

Looking into her eyes to see if she was pulling my plonker I saw only earnest truth. Now that I think of it, quite a bit of my life back there reminds me of Craggy Island’s crew.

What really bugs me more than anything else about being nicked for this speeding offence is that we were all driving safely.

If I’d wanted to drive faster without breaking the law, I’d have to wait until I reached the extremely dangerous bends a little further along the road, where the sign proudly and slightly madly declares you can go 100kph. 

Once again, the law is an ass, but I did the crime, so I paid the fine.

©Charlie Adley

No comments: