The speed camera demons
I’m usually not that picky when it comes to automobile features. Don’t get me wrong, when the drivers’ side window rolls all the way down without having to keep your finger on the button, that’s pretty cool, but it’s not something that I put in the ‘necessary’ column on my list of features. Being able to control the volume on the steering wheel? I guess that’s alright, but I typically just reach for the knob anyway. Most of these small features are designed to make your life easier in some way. I suppose if you added up the time in your life that you spent going back and forth between the steering wheel and the volume, or having your finger pressed on the window button, these features might save you a few minutes, right? Wrong… I’m thinking they have no noticeable impact on your life other than the brief satisfaction you get when you watch the window roll itself down while thinking, “Man, that never gets old.”
There is one feature, however, that I sorely miss when it’s absent and would put in my ‘must-have’ column: cruise control. When you’re on a long road trip, cruise control means the difference between simply relaxing and enjoying the ride on the one hand, and constantly having your foot on the pedal and checking and rechecking your speed on the other. If you are driving in the US, I will admit that this is less of a problem. There are highway patrolmen who could catch you, but they can be thwarted with radar detectors, are usually few and far between, and will not pull you over if you’re accidentally five miles over the speed limit. In the UK, however, there are no highway patrolmen… instead, there are speed cameras… everywhere… watching you… always. They aren’t hidden; they are brazenly labeled with signage that reminds you they are there… always… watching you. They don’t care if you’re only five miles over the speed limit; they will still mail you a ticket. You must stay vigilant all the time, keeping one eye on your speed at all times…. it’s so annoying.
I can already hear many of you trying to figure out how to beat the speed cameras… you could start by simply slowing down whenever you pass one. This would work sometimes, but, aside from being a major pain in the neck to slow down every two minutes, there are too many cameras for you to be 100% aware of them all the time. GPS systems are trying to help with this, by telling you when you’re over the speed limit and beeping at you when you’re nearing a speed camera. But even if you mastered all of these techniques, the Brits have discovered THE UNBEATABLE way to catch you at speeding, it’s called ‘Average Speed Check’. If you’re speeding through an area, you could slow down every time you saw a speed camera, but this won’t fool anyone, because the cameras have demons inside them with good memories and calculators, they remember your car and calculate how long it takes you to get from one camera to the next… if your average speed over that distance is too high, you get a ticket! It’s brilliant, it’s sneaky, it’s diabolical… it’s perfectly British!
You can imagine my relief last night when I got in my 1990 Honda Accord and saw a magical button staring back at me: cruise control. “I love you, Rosita,” I quietly whispered to my car. And I drove away in peace, not worried about my speed or the speed camera demons. With Rosita handling the speed, I was free to give my full attention and concentration to other more important things, like the radio.