Taken For a Ride

7 January 2015

Get in and buckle up, we’re being taken for a ride again.

Not racing

Here’s a fun sequence of events.

Richard Gilderoy was observed travelling at up to 87mph on a 60mph road, in traffic, as was Neil Walker who was driving “a short distance behind”.

The prosecution lawyer “said it was considered they may have been racing, but, following a review of evidence, it may have been more of a case of some showing off.”

Both drivers admitted careless driving, having denied dangerous driving.

The judge said “the accident appeared to result from momentary inattention”.

Both drivers received a £300 fine and penalty points. Neither received any disqualification.

Hang on a minute

Sorry, but this is all bullshit.

Two drivers in close proximity doing nearly 150% of the speed limit: call it racing or showing off, it doesn’t matter, it’s semantics of the flimsiest kind. It’s two people responding to each other’s reckless behaviour by reproducing it.

To call the crash an “accident” is positively contemptible; to attribute it to “momentary inattention” is beyond the pale. No-one but the drivers themselves chose to drive at 87mph, overtaking other vehicles as they did so. This was no accident, no momentary inattention: It was a choice to drive dangerously. It was a choice to construct a scenario where the slightest mistake could be catastrophic.

And there’s that old chestnut again: none of this behaviour is labelled by law as “dangerous”: it could choose to do so, but it is unwilling or unable. It is impotent and dismissive. Whether you consider the screamingly absurd semantics of saying that it is not “dangerous”, the equal absurdity of deeming a conscious decision to drive and overtake at these speeds “careless”, or the strict letter of this not being considered “far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver”, this stinks.

Choices

Tell me how this chosen behaviour is careless. Tell me how driving at 50% above the speed limit and overtaking traffic at rush hour is not dangerous. Tell me why the standard expected of me is—as legally defined—”not far” above this.

When it comes to driving offences, the law is an ass. Its language is an ass, its application is an ass, and tragically often the judges who remark on the cases they preside over make comments that are as asinine as any other aspect.

There is no ban here, no retesting, no process to ensure that these patently dangerous behaviours are gone. We are fobbed off with “accident”, “momentary inattention”, “showing off”—all from the people employed in roles intended to protect the public at large. These men are charged the price of a mobile phone for their actions and simply left to get on with it. And we are all left to share the roads with them.

We’re being taken for a ride, all of us, and it’s dangerous.

Comments

  1. geoffrone 7 January 2015 1:08pm #

    I can’t remember if I’ve posted before about the difference in the way that the law treats shotgun owners compared to drivers. If (semantics aside) i were to injure or kill somebody by accident with a shotgun, I would lose my license and would be unlikely to get it back – it would be my fault, I cocked up, no ifs and buts. With bad driving, the law seems to go out of it’s way to make excuses for idiots.

  2. Jim 7 January 2015 1:10pm #

    What a ridiculous way of “showing off”: “Look at me, I can go faster if I press this pedal, though still within the ordinary capabilities of most motor vehicles!” Why don’t you come round to my house, if I turn the dial down on my fridge it can go *really* cold?

  3. chrisrust 7 January 2015 1:49pm #

    One thing that’s certain about “momentary inattention” is that a great deal can happen in that moment at 87mph, it’s why we have speed limits. There seems to be a fundamental issue here about acts of commission and and acts of omission. To fail to pay attention briefly or drive at 5mph over the limit for a short distance might be a careless act of omission. To “show off” or drive at 87mph are definitely acts of commission and any such act should be treated as dangerous. The law just doesn’t acknowledge this fundamental difference. Overtaking, driving too fast for the conditions, using a phone, driving too close behind or alongside etc etc are all dangerous acts than can be avoided by an aware driver, the law should not tolerate any other kind of driver.

  4. Bill 7 January 2015 2:43pm #

    To put that into perspective, at 87 miles an hour you are covering approximately 39 metres a second. In two and a half seconds you have covered a football pitch.

    They should not be allowed to share the road with anyone again until they have passed an enhanced driving test.

  5. T.Foxglove 7 January 2015 3:08pm #

    I know the road and have driven & cycled along it.

    It is a National Speed Limit dual carriageway (I’ve been told it used to be the A1 before the A1(M) was built) I’m certain it is a 70 mph limit but at certain points the limit is 50 mph and the approach to the roundabout at Plawsworth is one. http://goo.gl/maps/gzcMP

    So at least 75% faster than the speed limit and I think you’d have to be going a lot faster than 87mph to lose it on the approach.

  6. Hensteeth 7 January 2015 4:41pm #

    I would have thought that a “momentary lapse of concentration” that resulted in the outcome of a destroyed car, 2 broken legs, other broken bones and concussion with the subsequent need of A&E to be in attendance for some time, not to mention the potential of death or serious injury to other road users, would prove that he was indeed driving dangerously and not carelessly. A momentary lapse of concentration for me might mean I edge over the stop line at a set of traffic lights.
    What a complete travesty. What chance have we got when this crap happens.

  7. Stuff Rich Writes 7 January 2015 9:08pm #

    An old 530i takes around 9 seconds to accelerate from 60mph to 90mph.
    I suspect a newer version would be quicker, but it would still be useful to have the judge define a moment, and also how long one can reasonably expect drivers to not be paying attention.
    In that nine seconds the cars will have been driven an awfully long way.

  8. rdrf 7 January 2015 10:23pm #

    Keep on bearing witness like this Bez

  9. Phil Fouracre 10 January 2015 11:17am #

    Agree with rdrf

  10. chrisrust 23 January 2015 5:13pm #

    I’m interested in the sentence for the second driver. To my shame I’ve just been given a fixed penalty because I drove through a speed camera at 36 mph and I received three penalty points. Now I’m not complaining, that seems to be a fair penalty for me not paying proper attention to the change of speed limit from 40 to 30. Some might even say I should be given a stricter sentence.

    But I’m not happy that Neil Walker got the same three points for driving at 87 mph where there seems to be some kind of competitive “showing off” going on, driving well above any possible speed limit and one of the drivers lost control with nasty consequences.

  11. A driver 29 July 2016 8:10pm #

    It’s a shame that people all think they know the details of the situation when they weren’t here. The road where the crash happened was a 70mph road and police and expert witness studied the second drivers car and it was found it couldn’t have exceeded 77mph. If someone was doing 33mph in a 30mph nothing would be sAid. People are quick to judge but unless you have the details opinions Are pointless.

    • Bez 29 July 2016 9:49pm #

      Checking Google maps, the road is largely a mix of 60 and 70 limit, but the stretch where the collision reportedly occurred (the Plawsworth Roundabout) actually appears to have a 50 limit, starting roughly a third of a mile before the roundabout. Which would mean even 77mph was more than 50% over the speed limit.

      It’s a fair point, though, that although reports of trial proceedings tend to contain reasonably reliably facts, that’s not always the case. Happy to be corrected on the details if need be.

      That said, the (admittedly rather ranty) point was more about the language in the quotes rather than the details: for instance how “showing off” seems to be some sort of concession that reduces culpability and how “momentary inattention” is used in the context of what would appear to be a deliberate standard of driving.

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