Forget airbags, seat-belts, speed cameras and crumple zones, the greatest road safety invention of the modern age is without doubt the “Child on Board” sticker displayed proudly on the back windscreen.
It is the clearest indication you could ever need that the person in front displaying the sticker is unlikely to be paying too much attention to the road or anyone around them.
Drop your speed, remain extra vigilant and in an ideal world turn off at the next available junction and find an alternative route – you know it makes sense.
Make no mistake, I love driving. I like getting behind the wheel and heading out along the open road – abroad, obviously, as there aren’t too many traffic-free routes left in this country.
Even in some of Lichfield’s “traffic-free” side streets and alleys, it is often rare to catch this sort of car-less view.
And as a born-again cyclist and a regular foot commuter through Lichfield’s rat routes and school run congested roads, I’m beginning to think we have some of the worst drivers in the UK in our midst.
Picture the scene: Beacon Street, mid-week, 8.30am and as the roads are busy you decide the sensible option is to use the light-controlled crossing near the cathedral.
As you wait, a very large 4×4 comes to an abrupt halt on the white zig-zag lines by the crossing, completely blocking the already congested road. A small child is deposited onto the pavement and as the lights turn from amber to red, the large 4×4 roars off . This causes both the foot commuter waiting to cross and the precious cargo the driver had just released from the cavernous vehicle to take a step back onto the pavement before safely walking to the other side.
The 4×4 is not seen for dust as it accelerates away (until 8.30am the next morning when a similar scenario is played out again).
The curse of the school-run mum has once again hit Lichfield’s historic streets.
There are many other examples – the school run mum (proudly displaying a Child on Board sticker) who ignored the 20mph limit along Wheel Lane to overtake a car she felt was travelling too slowly is another particular favourite.
And yet it is unfair to single out the menacing mums. Lichfield’s reputation for bad drivers encompasses just about every person who gets behind the wheel:
- There’s the pensioners who forget the basic rules of the road when approaching the island on Beacon Street near Morrison’s and decide to put their foot down on the accelerator, rather than the brake.
- Or the 20-something speed freaks who seem to think the Bowling Green is in the centre of a hitherto unknown Lichfield motorway network.
- Not forgetting the middle-aged professionals negotiating the many junctions of Lego Town (sorry, Darwin Park) – they ticked the option list for cruise control, air-con and electric sunroof for their executive saloon, but they were clearly factory fitted at the expense of indicators (but, sadly, not a horn).
- And the bus drivers who complain about speed bumps in that mythical land known as “north Lichfield” but never manage to stay under the limit causing their passengers to bounce around in frankly unnatural ways.
Taking to the streets of Lichfield can be a hazardous experience, which is one of the main reasons I choose to take an early morning bike ride around the cathedral city. It is a great way to start the day, but it is also the safest time to ride a bike through ye olde streets as most motorists are still safely parked up at home.
But even at 6.30am in the morning you aren’t immune from the worst that Lichfield’s motorists can offer.
Of course, Lichfield really doesn’t have the worst motorists in the UK. It just feels like that because so many of us drivers are concentrated in such a relatively small area.
We’re a nation of bad, inconsiderate, arrogant, ignorant drivers – as this test is designed to show.
We seem to lose what little common sense we have when we get behind the wheel.
Apart from me, obviously, I’m a great driver.