Don’t get too fruity

There is no doubt that Health and Safety combined with Nanny State thinking are in many cases just making our lives a joke. The problem seems to be that people cannot always make a clear judgement, so everything has to be black or white and, to be on the safe side, let’s make it all black.

We have all heard about the kids supposedly stopped from playing conkers and most people can come up with a similar story of something just as simple and equally as stupid.

So it should come as no surprise when I recently read about a young lady parked at a set of traffic lights and eating a banana, who then found herself with three points and a £60 fine. You have to ask, where has it all gone wrong: especially as I would not have been at all surprised if, while the Police Officer was booking this young lady for not having any proper control of her vehicle, there would be people driving passed using their mobile phones, probably trying to adjust the Radio Station and possibly trying to put a quote on Social Media from a hand held phone.

Since people have started going around killing other people while using a mobile phone, it now appears that anybody who is not firmly grasping the steering wheel with two hands is committing an offence, or at least that is how it seems. On a danger scale of one to ten, where does a banana fit in? I would think about 0 of 1 point.

Let’s remember that since people have been driving, lorry drivers in particular have always enjoyed a bacon sandwich on the move, despite for most of that time not having power steering, a synchromesh gearbox and not even good quality brakes. We all know that the only danger this presented was to themselves in the sense that they became fat and overweight with eating unhealthy food and then finished up with Diabetes. But cause an accident by eating? I have never even heard of it.

But, fast forward to the mobile phone and here we have a different animal. Not just a mobile phone but a sat-nav set on the move and there is texting and communicating on social media. And let us remember for a second we have all been guilty at one point or another of using a mobile phone on the move but I hope, like myself, people have now realised how dangerous and antisocial it is and have discontinued the practice. Whether you drive with one hand or two, is not the issue and never has been.

As a former rally driver when cars were simple, I have covered many miles of special stages at a good speed and because of the need to change gear every few yards, use a handbrake from time to time and then have to worry about a few other things, sometimes 40% of the route would be covered with just one hand on the wheel: then perhaps I would take my hand off the gear lever and on to a Mars Bar after the stage was complete. But the big difference is that at no time did I have any mental distractions.

The big difference between using a mobile phone and eating a banana, the banana would not bring on a heated argument; a banana cannot tell you that if you don’t get your backside home, your dinner will be in the dog, or some other life crisis that makes it impossible to concentrate and drive safely.

I believe that texting and social media are even more dangerous because they take up so much mental energy and leave none for driving. There are even a few other pastimes that are not good for driving and concentrating: firing up a cigarette cannot be that safe. I was also unfortunately enough to have a good friend of the family whose child in a rear baby seat for some reason became unsettled and the Mum turned round out of motherly love to see what was wrong, veered across the road and caused a double fatal accident.

Now that is a difficult one to deal with, but it reinforces how people are distracted and are not in control of their vehicle when they are in contact with another human by person, by phone or by text, which also brings into question hands-free systems: whereas if their only crime is to be in contact with a banana, they are hardly going to finish up in a road accident because they are still in complete control of their car.

There seems to be something about these Police Officers that are trying to make a statement with a case like the banana; maybe they are not getting out enough. I have also heard of someone who had been fined for eating an apple. By God! These fruits are hazardous! But I have never heard of anyone being fined for lighting a cigarette, setting a sat nav, or one or two other things that are a bit marginal. Whatever happened to the Police Officer who would issue a firm dressing down for such a minor offence thereby going a long way to avoiding repeat offending. I suppose being given a good bollocking at the roadside is now a breach of the driver’s human rights and it’s the Police Officer that would get censured.

I have to point out that I am not suggesting everybody should push on and have lunch on the move, but we need to realise if the difference between safe and dangerous driving is one hand on a banana or apple – or even a firm pear – then that driver should not be on the road in the first place.

Now, let’s go to the other end of the scale and prove we are not ‘jobsworths’. But better still, let’s have a campaign to stop people using mobile phones in vehicles. I would love to get something going where people blow their horns continually when they see somebody using a phone. Can you imagine the racket in a town centre and the embarrassment of people on their phones: and maybe then we will start to save lives.

Fred Henderson
Breakdown Doctor

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