Thursday, 16 May 2013

Don't get stung by one of driving's biggest distractions

IT WAS on a fine summer’s afternoon I discovered perhaps the most dangerous driving distraction known to man.

The Government’s answered calls – although not on a mobile phone while at the wheel, obviously – to up the penalty for those caught texting while driving to ninety quid. Rightly so, I reckon, because trying to spk 2 ur m8 abt 2nite while at the helm of an Audi A4 in the outside lane is, in anyone’s book, a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Transport hasn’t yet found ways to legislate against some equally attention-grabbing, but rather less avoidable, motoring distractions. Nanny State could, for example, do something about those lorries you always find conveniently parked up in fields alongside motorways and dual carriageways, but of far more pressing concern are the appalling spelling, grammatical and punctual errors on an alarming number of them. One, at the side of the A1, reads “Believe ON the Lord Jesus Christ”*, which constantly provokes in-car debate about whether it’s best to believe while standing, quite literally, on the son of God. Another, plugging a car care specialist, proclaims “Diesel’s repaired”. Is it? Trust me, there are few things more dangerous while driving on a dual carriageway than being forced to consult my imaginary copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

There’s also the unavoidable motoring horror of the sneeze, which not only blinds you entirely for half a second or so but, if it catches you off-guard, leaves the inside of your windscreen covered in snot (interior windscreen wipers, by the way, could be a great suggestion for anyone thinking of entering Dragons’ Den). Driving while preoccupied by a recent bereavement is a no-no too, and if you’re a man, there’s the added distraction of billboards with pictures of Keira Knightley on them.

All of these however, pale into comparision with the distraction I encountered on that gloriously sunny afternoon in the North Yorkshire countryside. I was driving a bright yellow Triumph Spitfire – read badly built Mazda MX-5 if you haven’t done your GCSEs yet – down the country lanes, lapping up the rays, when a bee landed on the inside of the windscreen. Seconds later, it flew off and landed straight on my chest. All the advanced driving lessons in the world can’t help prepare you for a spot of motoring melissophobia. How I didn’t crash someone else’s prized classic sports car, I will never know!

What’s more, while bees are fairly benign creatures which only sting when they’re threatened, I dread the day when a wasp – a useless species which stings small children just for fun – decides to join me for the drive.

The Government don’t just need to clamp down on texting drivers. They need to ban wasps as well.

*I am aware that 'on' and 'in' are both, for historical reasons, considered acceptable, but it still draws up interesting debates about the evolution of the English language. Just one I'd prefer not to have while driving along the A1.

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