At the age of 27 I was at teacher training college for a year. It was a strange period in my life since, as soon as I entered college, my career as a stand-up comedian took off.
Often I would reel into my teaching drama class, where I was meant to be convincing trainee hairdressers about the thrilling yet alienating properties of the plays of Bertholt Brecht, having been compering the Comedy Store Club until 3am.
I became so tired and confused that I sometimes got the gigs mixed up, demanding to know where the cabaret club audience's homework was or treating any students who asked questions like hecklers and giving vicious put-downs.
However, the one thing I took from teacher training, and something to which I still subscribe, is the notion that positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative. In other words, if you want a person to learn something or modify their behaviour, then it is much more productive to reward and praise rather than punish and criticise.
Yet when it comes to driving the authorities attitude, especially this Government's, is negative reinforcement containing no positive input whatsoever.
Now I don't want this to be a self-pitying motoring journalist's whine, the sort in all the car magazines of "Why Can't I Do 186mph In A School Zone If I Own A Ferrari?" or "Get Lost Cyclist Bastard, You Make Me Sick!" or "Speed Cameras Are A Greater Crime Against Humanity Than The Cambodian Killing Fields".
I have never had any points on my licence nor a speeding conviction: I am so committed to safe driving that I made a BBC TV series a few years ago called Drive about how to be a better road user which is regularly shown to offenders at drink-driving and road-rage traffic schools. Yet even before I get into my car, I feel I am as pursued by the vengeful forces of law-and-order as Butch and Sundance.
Say I drive to my office in Greenwich from my home in Bloomsbury: the first hurdle is to get out of the house by 9.30am so I don't get a parking ticket, then I must drive over the mini Mount Fujis distributed in the middle of the road to slow me down by ripping off my exhaust system.
Once out of my street I am photographed to ensure I've paid my congestion charge, then there's the 10 speed cameras, the chicanes, the road narrowing, the traffic lights, roundabouts, road closures and zig-zag lines.
Maybe this is the way it has to be: the motor vehicle is a pollutant and a weapon of mass destruction more real than anything they'll ever find in Iraq; yet even though I am a walker, a supporter of environmental causes and a cyclist, I feel unfairly oppressed when I drive.
Perhaps if the positive route were tried, motorists could be encouraged to stick to the law without feeling so persecuted. What would happen if we gave rewards for virtuous behaviour?
Say you are spotted by a speed camera doing 30mph or under in a 30mph zone for a week, then you might win 10 prize tickets in a games' arcade, a pink pen or a cheap plastic comb.
Traffic wardens might print tickets to Ben Elton's musical We Will Rock You or vouchers for a half-price meal at Pizza Hut to cars legitimately parked.
If this proved effective, then a vehicle emblazoned with "Police Dog Van" would no longer contain a mad Alsatian trained to attack the groins of asylum seekers, but would be stuffed with fluffy, yappy, mechanical toy dogs to be handed out to drivers breathalysed and found not to be drunk or violent.
Motorists might then start to feel more merry and less harried about the business of driving.Reuse content