I will not for an instant claim that my own driving habits are totally beyond reproach, and nor will I resort to throwing around names or nationalities of those parties I feel to be most endangering our roads; I would however, like to lay down a few facts of which you, as readers, are most likely fully aware but which you, as road users, are most likely to overlook.
Picture this: it’s a warm summers day – let’s make it Friday – end of the week, work is over, rush hour has commenced and all you want to do, is get home and crack a beer. Or two. Cars in front of you, cars behind you; in fact, as far as you can see in both directions, it’s practically solid vehicles, all idling in unison. Then the line moves. You speed up for a few hundred metres; then shortly after, slow down again. This happens a number times, as it always does, bumper to bumper traffic; most people resigned to sitting and waiting. Then finally, you’re out of the city where the limit is 100kph. Foot down, you go for it. Of course, the preceding vehicle doesn’t share your enthusiasm. It’s funny, he seldom does. Before you know it you’re hard on the brakes, back down to around 80kph. Kilometre after kilometre, 80kph. It’s frustrating. You never can understand it. The speed limit is 100kph, yet for some reason, people are only doing 80. Then you spy it. There’s a gap in oncoming traffic. If you really push it you should just be able to make it. Foot to the floor you pull out to overtake… The adrenalin rises; here’s where the fun begins.
In your subconscious at least, you know full well there will be a solid line of traffic heading out of the city that afternoon, just like you; all on their way home from work. There will be sporadic breaks every so often, sure, but other than that, the homeward bound traffic is a veritable python of sun-baked steel.
Nevertheless, here you are. Over in the opposite lane powering along that snake’s mighty backbone in an attempt to jump four or five vertebra. You make it. Nice one. You are now around 100 metres better off than you were. That particular stretch of the journey takes approximately half an hour at 100kph; so now, given that you’ve managed to leap forward 100 metres, you have shortened the trip by at least two seconds. Good work. Nice one. But you’re not content with that, are you? Oh no. Another break in oncoming traffic; another leap. This time it was six cars. My God man, you made up almost 200 metres that time. That’s almost five seconds. Oh, but wait, the snake is slowing for a township. It’s not your township though, so just about at the end of the speed reduction, you gun it again. This time you jump around 500 metres and what’s more, you’re now in the clear – travelling at 110kph. Well done. Gosh, you sure proved me wrong. But wait, oh no, around the next bend – which of course you take at 100kph – the traffic’s all backed up again. This time you’re really hard on the anchors. Now you’re down to 60. This is unbelievable. Your town is on the horizon, you can practically taste that cool beer, but you’re creeping home at a meagre 60kph with no opportunity to pass. Five minutes of this is about all you can stand. You feel as though you’re going insane. You’ve become so agitated that you’ve smoked three cigarettes in that time then just to pour iodine in that gaping wound of yours, you glance up to your rear view mirror, to see the line of cars that you used every modicum of your motoring expertise to overtake, has now caught up and you can actually make out the smiling driver of that car you passed when first leaving the city. How the hell did that happen? You turn the mirror to gaze upon your own twisted reflection; then wrench it back around to the driver of the trailing vehicle. How much do you want to punch him in his smug little face right now?
Analytically, as well as reaching near heart attack levels of anxiety and possibly ruining Friday afternoon beer o’clock, during that drive home, you’ve used perhaps three times the fuel as that complacent motorist, so content was he just to sit back and wait; knowing, understanding, that providing he didn’t stop – thereby giving up his vertebra in the inexorable python – all of the cars comprising that line of traffic would indeed arrive home, safely, and within just a few minutes of each other.