Wednesday, 9 January 2008


So there I was, minding my own business amongst the hurly burly of lane 4 on the M25 one Thursday lunchtime, when the 80-odd mph ‘fast lane’s’ progress was interrupted by the sight of a jam sandwich joining the carriageway.

Within a few seconds, the whole of the motorway was travelling precisely at an indicated 70mph, keeping station with the police car, which had chosen this speed for it’s journey in lane 2. One at a time, the occupants of lane 4 slowly drifted left into the other lanes, intimidated by the unusual sight of an officer of the law driving at exactly 70.

Now, in my experience, well trained police officers in traffic cars rarely behave like this, exactly to prevent the situation I was in: four lanes of motorway traffic with no speed variation at all, It becomes difficult to move across the crowded lanes to an exit, and makes a nasty incident more, not less likely. My suspicions were also confirmed by the fact that this particular police car wasn’t the type of high-powered saloon favored by the Motorway patrols, but the sort of small estate car (a Focus) more typically used by local bobbies.

So once all the law abiding (and paranoid) occupants cleared lane 4 in front me, I gently increased speed to exactly an indicated 78mph, an the basis that this represented a true 73mph or so, and wouldn’t trouble the Buzzies.

Imagine my surprise therefore, when the aforesaid sandwich immediately left lane 2, and joined lane 4 about 100m meters behind me. Now, I’ll admit this was unexpected: the officers appear to have been affronted by my refusal to keep station with them at ‘70mph’ (more likely to be a true 65mph or so) and were going to make my life a little uncomfortable. That seemed fair enough, I’ve driven at more sporting speeds without sanction often enough….

So we progressed for several minutes in this fashion; I could see signs of activity in the car behind, and I suspect my registration, tax and insurance were being checked out. Meanwhile I stuck to a precise 78mph, changing to a lane on my left when it was possible, but only after indicating in a scrupulously correct fashion. Yet at the same time I was rehearsing my lines should I be stopped ( “Does something appear to be the matter with my driving officer?” “And was the speedometer in your car calibrated recently officer?”) I also continued to gamble that these regular bobbies were not going to risk a ‘stop’ on a busy section of the M25, and that they were endeavoring only to persuade me to “Stop the bloke in the Porch [sic] taking the p*ss” (See? I’ve talked to policemen before!).

Sure enough, as we approached the exit for the A3, the police car suddenly slowed and moved back into Lane 2, allowing me to take the slip in approved Roadcraft fashion. I watched carefully as I joined the A3 south, but once it was clear I was no longer being followed, I rejoined the train of cars making progress in lane 3, wondering what had just been proved.

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