Whenever I am in the UK, I always drive home on Friday afternoons. Just a shade under 5 hours – 4.5 hours driving & thirty minutes drinking coffee. Sometimes the whole trip takes longer – there’s a delicate balance between traffic and time of day.
But Fridays are good. I use the journey to talk to colleagues on the phone – always safe and legal. It has to be people I know…and can’t be topics for which need (or need to imagine) slides. Time flies by…and the conversations are of great value…to me at least.
I have driven the route many times. I know where the traffic is heaviest, where cars end up in the wrong lane, and where the speed cameras are.
Last Friday I was cruising south on the last section before it switches from three lanes to two. It is a stretch where I always look to pass slow moving vehicles before it’s too late. I was in the middle lane – having an excellent discussion with an IT colleague from Head Office – when I saw the dreaded bus and lorry combination up ahead of me.
Two things happened before I was able to make my move. A car just behind me pulled out to overtake. And a different car just ahead of me indicated that he wanted to make the same move. I decided to hold my place and watch. Something told me the car behind me had no intention of giving way to the car in front.
The car ahead continued to indicate and started to accelerate….easily moving to 80 or 85mph…but the car behind saw him making his move and accelerated harder and faster to block the space…flashing his headlights as he raced. The car ahead sounded his horn. Both drivers waved fists (and fingers). But car behind held (and blocked) the overtaking lane and sped past all the traffic at an adrenaline fuelled 90 or even 95mph.
And at that moment we all saw him. The traffic policeman in his cruiser. Sitting on a ramp at the side of the motorway. Watching this whole scenario unfold.
Everyone hit their brakes – even me and I wasn’t going more than a couple of miles above the 70mph legal limit. Both 95mph and 85mph cars slowed so much and so quickly that I was able to pass them easily without any acceleration.
In my rear view mirror I watched the police patrol set off and join the traffic. I wondered who he was going to pull over. In theory both cars were fair game. He chose the vehicle (originally behind me) who had been so determined to prevent his fellow road user from moving in front of him that he had accelerated to way over the speed limit.
In truth this can be a common moment. That moment when blood rushes to our head, adrenaline kicks in and we feel we have to make our point. I was here first and you can’t take my space. There are times when most of us have felt so angry and frustrated (for whatever reason) that we are tempted to act in a way totally unlike how we would behave at any other moment.
And who am I to judge a fellow driver? I have no idea how much pent up stress or frustration he was feeling at that moment. But even so, if we assume this is why he drove in the way he did, then there just has to be better ways – more legal, more constructive and less dangerous (for everyone else) ways – to handle, and resolve our day to day pressures.