Horsham drivers urged to take care on the roads

It was 125 years ago, on January 28, 1896, that Walter Arnold of Kent became the first person in the world to be convicted of speeding.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 10:27 am

The speed limit was 2mph at the time, and a man carrying a red flag had to walk in front of the vehicle. But one day Mr Arnold took off at 8mph, without a flag bearer. He was chased by a policeman on a bicycle for five miles, arrested, and fined one shilling.

The speed limit was changed later that same year to 14mph, but there is no record of Mr Arnold getting his money back.

Nor is there any evidence that he was endangering life and limb, which used to be the criterion: the 1832 Stage Carriage Act introduced the offence of endangering someone’s safety by ‘furious driving’.

Jumping forward to the WSCT of January 28, 2020 we find a report on the Community Speed Watch which has been monitoring traffic speed in Colgate for some time. In an 18-month period they clocked 1,800 ‘Mr Walter Arnolds’ who were travelling faster than 36mph and the maximum recorded was 62mph in the 30mph zone.

During the lockdown period, police traced and arrested the driver of a black Audi which was self-recorded at 200mph on the A23 between Gatwick and Crawley. Elsewhere, police have caught one driver doing 120mph in a 20mph zone, another doing 152mph in a 30mph zone.

Now the police themselves haven’t a blameless record so far as safe driving is concerned. Their record in hot pursuit drives was so alarming that back in 1937 a racing driver was brought in to train the police in safer driving techniques. One result of this much improved training is the Police Foundation handbook ‘Roadcraft’, the latest edition of which is dated 2020. We recommend you buy a copy and take the time to read it carefully. Not only read it, but put its good sense into practice. None of it is difficult, much of it is very straightforward and all of it is effective. The constant drumbeat throughout its pages is emphasis on observation. Look around you. Look ahead, watch your instruments, glance in the mirror. Look far, near, here and rear. See what’s there, guess what might happen and plan effectively.

After every drive, no matter how short, here in Horsham or much further away, stop and consider: self evaluate the drive, note the good as well as the bad and strive to improve. With practice and attention, you won’t be flashed by speed checkers in Colgate or anywhere else and you’ll be a much more prudent citizen than those noted above.

There’s practical help available too. Your next step could well be to sign up for a course with the Central Southern Group of Advanced Motorists (CSAM), who will patiently coach you in driving techniques which will refine your skills and perhaps save your life. Check them on the website www.iamroadsmart.com.

Safe motoring.