Ruth Brandon: Being sensible can drive us mad

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Don't some things just make you so angry you almost aren't responsible for your actions? I get like that when I see a Hummer. In the absence of the necessary flamethrower, the urge to scratch it and slash its tyres is almost irresistible. And there's another thing that does it for me, too: drivers on the phone. Wasn't that made illegal? Yet there they go just the way they always did, one hand on the wheel and one eye on the road....

So I should be pleased, shouldn't I, to hear that the car-number recognition mechanism that's already used to catch speeders and congestion-charge evaders is now to be extended to phoners and non-seat-belt-users.

As a motorcyclist said to me only yesterday when I bawled him out for driving on the pavement, "So what's your problem?"

Indeed, there are many good reasons for taking this step. Since the mechanism's already there, it's only common sense to make the most of it. The law exists - why not enforce it, since we have the means? The roads would undoubtedly be safer. Phoning when you're driving isn't just illegal, it's dangerous. As is not wearing a seat-belt, though in that case the danger is only to yourself. Only contrarians could possibly argue with that.

So why does the whole thing make me feel so uneasy? It's like the great public-smoking debate. I don't smoke - never have. I don't like the smell of cigarettes (unless they're Turkish, or cigars). I know cigarette smoke harms even non-smokers. Yet I feel that banning smoking in all enclosed public places is one step too far.

Of course we all know what started the rot: 9/11 and 7/7 have been fatal numbers indeed, not just for the people actually killed, but for a whole relaxed way of life. With the enemy so intangibly but undeniably out there, the authoritarians are now in charge.

Insurance mentality rules OK. See that tree? Better cut it down. A car may run into it. A rapist may lurk behind it.

It's having its effect on the way people think. In a shop recently an argument was going on about smoking. Next thing, said someone, you'll be forbidden to be naked at home.

We all considered this. Then I said, "But how would they know? Surveillance cameras at every window?" We all laughed. What a ridiculous idea.

Or perhaps not, with the reality of number-recognition cameras. First they do one thing, then it's extended to another. And another, and another. It's common sense, isn't it? Only an idiot would complain. Or perhaps someone with something to hide, so they say.

So what happens next time I see someone using their mobile while they drive? Do I yell abuse and cover them with embarrassment? Do I mentally wish them towards the speed cameras? Or do I salute them as flag-carriers for a defiance in all too short supply these days?

Just remember this: it won't stop at mobiles and seat-belts. Next, they'll be checking who you're driving with, and what you're carrying. Only sensible, isn't it? Might as well make the most of the technology. And in no time at all half the population will be spying on the other half, and you won't be able to be naked in your own home.

motoring@independent.co.uk

Search for used cars

Comments