Claire Black: Crash course needed in Nice Way Code

Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE other day a man in his car pulled alongside mine and got himself into what can only be described as a state of incandescent rage.

It seemed that, in his opinion, I was in his way. I had obviously done this deliberately, and with malice. The Nice Way Code? Not so much.

As he launched into a diatribe of abuse – spittle flecking the window between me and him – I wasn’t sure exactly what he was saying. But trust me, a qualification in lip-reading was not required to know that I was the lowest of the low with, in his opinion, inadequate brain power for pushing a shopping trolley let alone driving a car. I started to wonder about his sanity: what could justify this behaviour?

Thing is, to be fair, the other reason I didn’t open my window for a full tilt earful was that I have been known to experience the odd bout of road rage. Nothing sets me off quicker than someone swearing aggressively at me for no reason. Such was my problem, a swear box was introduced in our car. You curse, you cough up. Fair enough. It has seriously curbed my attitude. More than that, though, it was clear I needed to get a grip – I’ve got a baby. I spent ages buying the right car seat to keep him safe, so why would I jeopardise his safety by driving like an eejit?

You think there’s no connection? You think it’s possible to be filled with abject rage and still drive well? Perhaps that ­logic is the reason a recent survey by a road safety charity and a major insurer revealed that 69 per cent of drivers admitted putting others at risk by breaking traffic laws while 99 per cent of those questioned believed they were safe when behind the wheel. That’s what happens when slightly more than a third of drivers believe that, even although they are breaking laws, their recklessness doesn’t really count because they’ll be able to handle whatever happens as a result.

It’s this kind of madness that makes me greet a new report which recommends raising the age from which you can get a driving licence from 17 to 18, with this query: why target only young drivers?

It’s true that more than a fifth of deaths on the roads in Britain involved drivers aged between 17 and 24. It’s also true that young male drivers aged 17-20 are seven times more at risk of a road accident than the average male driver. That’s why the report also suggests there should be a 12-month “learner stage” during which drivers would need to rack up 100 hours of supervised daytime driving and 20 hours of nighttime driving. There would also be a curfew for newly qualified drivers between 10pm and 5am unless they were carrying a passenger over 30.

But my question remains: what about the rest of us? I accept that young drivers need additional supervision, but maybe the rest of us could do with some too.

WHAT a week it’s been for modest yet brilliant octogenarians being recognised for their outstanding achievements. Emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, Peter Higgs, 84, learned of his Nobel prize for his work on the theory of the particle which shares his name, the Higgs boson, when a neighbour congratulated him in the street. Canadian writer Alice Munro, 82, (a descendant of James Hogg, author of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner) learned of her award – she wasn’t even aware that she was in the running for it – when her daughter called her to tell her, “Mom, you’ve won.” Charming, wonderful and richly deserved by both.

You may sometimes wonder at First Minister’s Questions. You may also be agog at the Westminster equivalent. But, let us all just take a moment to consider the French National Assembly. Or, more specifically, the plight of women members of that parliamentary body. For only a matter of days ago one such politician was repeatedly heckled while making a speech on pension reform. Heckled how? With clucking noises. It was a sexist slur and the politician guilty of it has been fined ¤1,378 (£1,117) for interrupting a parliamentary session. Now let’s just be grateful that Holyrood’s presiding officer has never had to deal with that. «

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