CONTROVERSY abounds, apparently, in the tale of the 23-year-old have-a-go chancer Chris Welford, who recently tapped the frustrations of many UK drivers, including this one, by parking his car in front of a mobile speed camera on a North Yorkshire road.
This deliberate act of defiance, including an open boot to obscure the camera view, was greeted with honks of approval from other drivers and duly recorded and posted on social media, where it garnered “hundreds of messages of support’’.
The police, however, countered by saying that Welford was irresponsible for putting people at risk and not considering speeding a serious offence.
I’m not so sure. As someone who has spent the past three years driving with nine points on his licence in something akin to a traumatised stupor (every unexpected flash of light triggers a mild panic attack — “Was that a camera? Is that it? Am I done for? Am I spending the next six months on my bicycle?”), I can’t help but feel the primal rush of revenge at the thought of all the nasty, vindictive points not doled out by that North Yorkshire camera on that one delicious afternoon. And it is revenge. Because you do take it personally.
Mine, especially, when it happened, felt like a legal outrage — right up there with Nelson Mandela, Rubin “Hurricane’’’ Carter and the Birmingham Six, as far as miscarriages of justice go. It was late 2013, and in less than a month I went from being a respectful road user with a flawless licence to someone shaken to the core and suddenly carrying nine points. And all because of one camera, on one road, which shall remain hatefully nameless, in rural Devon.
“In less than a month I went from being a respectful road user with a flawless licence to someone shaken to the core and suddenly carrying nine points”
I had begun commuting to Devon each week (my family were between homes) and had not yet realised that this particular lovely leafy-green and mostly deserted road towards Totnes actually hid, at the far end of an equally quiet and leafy-green driveway, a big bloody school.
Big mistake. Schools = 20mph speed limit. Thus my jaunty country driving, each time on a Saturday morning (again, deserted-roads alert), that never crept above the low 40mph level meant that for three weeks in a row — blam! blam! blam! — my fate was sealed.
I was oblivious to the “speed camera flash”. I saw nothing. The first flash I got was the sight of two letters delivered in the same bundle to my London address, indicating the arrival of my first six points. Within a fortnight the third letter confirmed the unthinkable. Yep. Three agonising years of Driving Miss Daisy. Any slip-ups in that time and it’s an instant driving ban.
Naturally I phoned the Devon and Cornwall police to throw myself at their mercy, but they were clearly in a schadenfreude state of mind — “And what if a nonexistent child had come running out of that empty school? Hmm? Hmm? Mr fancy-pants city boy! Hmm? Hmm?”
I took the points. I did the time. And I’m back to zero. It still rankles though. So naturally, when I hear of the exploits of Chris Welford I am filled with righteous ire. It doesn’t last long. It’s not justice. And I can never get those three years of crap driving back. But I can live with that.
This article first appeared in The Times