TELEVISION / Life in the fast lane

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The Independent Culture
RECKLESS drivers stalk the land, careering round our streets at ridiculous and illegal speeds. Last night, and not before time, Driving Obsessions (BBC 1) stood up and named the guilty parties: it's everyone.

Members of a pressure group recounted how they had gathered kerbside to assemble some statistics on speed-abuse - and then had waited half an hour before anyone drove by who was actually within the speed limit. A Chief of Police rather bashfully confessed that, yes, average cruising speeds were well over the figures written on speed-limit signs, which are rapidly assuming all the legal force of the serving suggestions on the packets of pre-prepared meals. And it's not just the fault of what our presenter Michael Delahaye rather haughtily called 'the XR3i fraternity'. It seems you can sit almost anyone behind the wheel of a car and the chances are they won't be able to resist the urge to take it up around 90 and see what it can do.

Luckily, we have the police on the side of caution. Or rather, we would have, if they weren't as interested in pushing the envelope as the rest of us. They're much better at it, too, having undergone training in what the force calls 'progressive driving', which, as far as one could establish from this programme, basically means progressing beyond using the brakes or any of the slower gears. In a survey, one in 20 of the drivers on the force was reckoned to be 'aggressive', and most of the police's own driving instructors admitted to getting a thrill out of driving fast.

Who knows what danger money Delahaye was getting, but he agreed to shoot a sequence from the back of a motorway patrol car. One tends to assume that motorway policemen have a somewhat distorted take on the world, rather like the Royal Family: just as the Queen only sees streets and buildings which have been polished for her arrival, so motorway police live under the illusion that traffic proceeds at a stately 68 mph, simply because everyone slows down the moment they glimpse a patrol car. In fact, because of the number of people going so fast that they don't see the patrol car, it's non-stop action. But not, alas, while the cameras were running. A clearly disappointed Delahaye wanted to know why they weren't pulling anyone over. 'Today's climate is all about public relations,' said one of the officers, who wasn't going to go upsetting police and community harmony by actually arresting anyone.

In the way of solutions, the programme held out hope for the government's new anti-speeding initiative and praised the Ilderton Motor Project, where young offenders take part in stress-relieving demolition derbies. At a more local level, one member of the emergency services has taken to making home movies of the wrecks he attends and showing them to people as a deterrent. If an ambulance driver invites you round for an evening to watch his videos, it might be worth finding out more before you commit to going.

In the final of Come Dancing (BBC 1), Liverpool pipped London in what Rosemarie Ford, presenting, called the 'char char char' section, and squeezed out as overall winners - sobering proof that you can drive cautiously in circles and still get somewhere.