Drivers, Coronabug and a Grand Old Man

Let me start with the grand old man. One of the talks I give is entitled Never Too Old for Adventure and a small piece in one of the newspapers today rather reinforced this premise. Ninety-five year old Keith Stephens, who uses a walking frame, made a fifteen thousand foot sky dive with his carer Angelica Lundekesi. Angela later revealed that the pensioner was not at all scared – unlike her. Keith, who lives at Silvermere Care Home in Cobham, Surrey, raised £1,300 for cancer charity Macmillan for his feat at Old Sarum Airfield in Salisbury. Afterwards he said: “I thought it was super. It’s a good experience.” 

Keith was able to make the jump after convincing care staff that he was fit enough for the challenge. He also had to pass a medical to jump from that height – which is the highest altitude permitted in the UK. 

Carer Angela said: “He’s a bit of a daredevil and quite adventurous. Nothing fazes him at all.” 

Good for him. There is hope for us all with people like Keith about.

Unfortunately though, that bit of cheerful news was buried under the flood of negative articles about the coronavirus. There seems to be a sense of gathering panic among the people of Britain and I am sure this is fuelled by the media, who really do not want us to feel at all cheerful.

Yet the World Health Organisation – another august and overpaid body who don’t seem to achieve very much -have issued a statement saying that it is important we all keep a sense of perspective.

Since the virus arrived on the scene last December, around three thousand five hundred people have died from its effects, most of them in Wuhan where it originated. On its very worst day in early February, one hundred and eight deaths were recorded.

Tragic yes, but fifty thousand people die around the world every day from heart disease, twenty six thousand from cancer and three thousand or so from malaria. That is not to mention road accidents, murders and various other assorted causes of death. Even snake bites account for over a hundred and thirty deaths a day.

Surely it is time for the authorities – and the media of course – to calm down?

Yet even the coronabug seems to be a symptom of how modern society is getting its values and aims mixed up. I mentioned road accidents, which as a former copper I have always looked on as the most needless form of death. British laws on driving are relatively strict but they are being circumvented by clever lawyers intent on earning easy money at the expense of careful road users.

The law states that if a driver accumulates twelve penalty points on his or her licence, he or she is automatically banned from driving for at least a year. That is as it should be, particularly as most penalty points are awarded for exceeding speed limits. Yet now we learn that drivers with dozens of penalty points are remaining on the road due to a legal loophole.

It seems that magistrates can use their discretion to allow an offender to stay on the road if they believe it would cause ‘exceptional hardship’ to revoke their licence. What a load of fatswallop! The law is the law damnit and if you break it, you accept the consequences.

Yet one man with sixty-six points on his licence has avoided a ban, as have a further two men with sixty points. The next-worst offenders – all of them women – have kept their licences despite having between forty eight and fifty nine points each.

This ridiculous loophole in the law of the land has helped ten thousand five hundred and eighty nine motorists to stay on the roads when they should by rights have been banned. 

Road safety charity Brake has called for an urgent review of the ‘exceptional hardship’ nonsense. A spokesman said: ‘If drivers who rack up twelve points aren’t banned, it makes a mockery of the system.’ Of course it does.

There is no strict definition for exceptional hardship, which is judged on a case-by-case basis, but it could cover caring for a sick relative who relies on someone to drive them around. I am sorry but there are always taxis to be had and if you can afford to run a car, you can afford to take a taxi when it is needed.

John Bache, of the Magistrates’ Association, said: ‘The process for establishing exceptional hardship is robust and magistrates scrutinise each case very carefully.’

Rubbish Sir! I have personally witnessed many a magistrate swayed by impassioned appeals from shyster lawyers and have absolutely no faith in amateur judges, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

Those ten and a half thousand drivers who should have been banned are a danger to the rest of us. It is surely time for the government to be firm on upholding the law. So far I have been complimentary toward Priti Patel as Home Secretary but she needs to address this particular problem as a matter of urgency. If I am written off by a driver who should not have been on the road, I will come back and haunt her – as well as Bunter Johnson!

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