Miles Kington: Hand signals can land drivers in hot water

If the driver behind is foolish enough to be unaware of hand signals, that is her fault. Not mine
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There is a most peculiar trial going on in the High Court at the moment, in which a motorist is facing charges of dangerous driving, without having broken the law. How can this be? Well, let us join the trial as the defendant, Willis Gaspard, takes the stand...

Counsel: You are William Gaspard?

Gaspard: I am.

Counsel: No, hold on, I have got the name wrong. You are Willis Gaspard ?

Gaspard: I am.

Counsel: Even though just now you agreed that you were William Gaspard?

Gaspard: I am.

Counsel: You are what?

Gaspard: I am.

Judge: Mr Blanchflower, pause for a moment. The defendant is clearly terrified. Are you not, Mr Gaspard?

Gaspard: I am.

Judge: There you are, Mr Blanchflower. It is not an easy thing to stand up in a court of law for the first time - I take it you are appearing for the first time, Mr Gaspard?

Gaspard: I am.

Judge: And sometimes a person is so overawed by the occasion he cannot think straight, and is reduced to saying the same thing over and over again.

Gaspard: I am.

Judge: Shut up, Gaspard. So you see, Mr Blanchflower, I recommend that you adopt a friendly manner, just to begin with. You can turn nasty later, if that is the way you are planning it.

Counsel: I am.

Judge: Watch it, Blanchflower

Counsel: I am sorry, m'lud. Now, Mr Gaspard, will you please tell the court your name?

Gaspard: I am ...

Counsel: Yes?

Gaspard: I am ... Willis Gaspard

Counsel: Very good. And on 17 July last year, you were driving a car along the A2022 in Surrey, were you not?

Gaspard: I am.

Counsel: You mean, you were.

Gaspard: I was.

Counsel: Good. Now, you came to a point where you had to turn right, did you not ?

Gaspard: I am.

Counsel: Let me rephrase. You came to a point where you had to turn right into a road called Woodmansterne Lane, where you are resident, is that not right?

Gaspard: I am.

Counsel: Good. And to indicate your right turn you not only switched on your indicator, but you also stuck out your right hand to show you were turning right?

Gaspard: I did.

Counsel: The result of your hand gesture was to confuse the driver of the car behind you who thought you were waving to her to overtake you, that she overtook you just as you started to turn right and that it all led to a terrible pile-up in which, mercifully, nobody was hurt. Is that a fair summary, Mr Gaspard?

Judge: It is.

Gaspard: How do you justify your actions?

Gaspard: With consummate ease. I broke no law. I merely followed the precepts of motoring which I learnt in my youth, to make my actions clear by hand signals. Nowadays, when everything is done electronically, younger people merely flick on a pulsing light to indicate they are turning, but what if the light is not working? How can they possibly know if a light they cannot see is functioning? They cannot. And that is why I always back up my automatic signals with hand signals. If the driver behind is foolish enough to be unaware of hand signals, that is her fault, not mine. She should be in the dock for ignorant driving, not me!

Counsel: Ah, but ignorant driving is not a crime.

Gaspard: It most certainly is. Ignorance of the law against using a mobile phone while driving is a crime. Ignorance of the speed limit while driving in excess of it is a crime. Ignorance of the difference between a red traffic light and a green light is a crime. Ignorance ...

Counsel: I take your point, Mr Gaspard. I also note you have abandoned your previous tight-lipped approach and your reiteration of "I am" as an answer. Does this new eloquence mean you are prepared to co-operate?

Gaspard: I am.

(More of this case tomorrow when we finally find out whether it is now illegal to use hand signals.)

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