Sunday, 4 January 2009

‘Twin Peaks’ and the A.A.

Everyone who wrote to the AA about this pic got back the same standard reply:

Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

The still photograph does not show unequivocally that this was a deliberate or illegal act. The situation, described in rule 178 may have applied (i.e. the light may have changed between first and second stop line).

The A.A. is clutching at straws, as I saw their employee drive into the box when the lights were already at red. So it was indeed an unlawful piece of driving. Not that the A.A. man or any other lawless driver needs to worry. You can stare at this particular ASL all day long and you’d see thousands of drivers abuse it, just as every other ASL in Greater London is treated with contempt, because the law is not enforced, and apparently this is Metropolitan Police policy.

The A.A. response underlines how the law always has little loopholes to benefit reckless drivers. Because no careful driver would ever get themselves in the position of being caught in an ASL. The only sort of driver who gets caught in an ASL between amber and red is someone driving too fast and hoping to jump the lights, or an impatient driver in a traffic jam who follows the car in front an inch behind, and is indifferent about being in an ASL.

As it happens, at Christmas Santa Claus brought me the first series of the legendary TV programme ‘Twin Peaks’. I enjoyed the moment when the slightly eccentric FBI agent divides America up between good and bad towns, defined as being places where, approaching traffic lights, drivers slow down at amber or those towns where all drivers accelerate.

London has for a very long time been a city where drivers who see the lights turn to amber put their foot down. And just about every red light has one to three drivers who race through.