By James Driver
UK car sales increased by 7.7% this May, the 27th consecutive month of growth so far. Unbroken growth like this in the automotive industry hasn’t been seen since 1959.
This is great news for the UK automotive industry and the economy, and for us motorists too. With new money in the pot, UK manufactures are serving up a fruitful range of exciting cars, packed with technology and mind boggling fuel economy, while at the same time we are lavished with multibillion pound smart motorways and advanced nationwide car park applications; we should be in motoring euphoria, but I can’t feel we may have lost something along the way … Has this investment robbed us of the joys of driving?
13 years ago Daniel Cleaver whisked Bridget Jones away in a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE Convertible for a mini break traveling on fast open roads. However, what if I tried this in 2014? I’m off to the Lake District at the weekend and I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t be the same.
When this was filmed, fuel prices were 72p a litre, compared to the £1.38 today, I certainly wouldn’t be wasting any fuel making erotic tiger impressions in sync with the throttle - I couldn’t afford it, not as well as the prepaid £20 needed in congestion charge fees in order to sneak back to London for my fictional sordid affair half way through the trip.
What’s more, during the journey we wouldn’t have cool wind soaring through the open cockpit causing head scarves to fly away in the breeze, just the warm breath of Angela Merkel breathing down our neck thanks to the fuel guzzling diesel under my bonnet as opposed to a sensible hybrid or euro6 engine; we certainly would not be laughing as we received the £80 fine for littering a highway with head scarves.
We’d be stuck on the M1, constrained to an unbearable average speed zone on an empty motorway shiftily going under bridges with speed cameras trained on every car as they pass nervously. We wouldn’t be happy; we’d be hot, flustered, begging for air conditioning.
But the end would be in sight, just after we endure the queue caused by a rouge 40mph limit set to assist the flow of traffic. All before leaving the motorway to hit the open country roads riddled with pot holes, speed cameras & endless traffic calming measures.
Arriving at our location there wouldn’t be time for a long goodbye before I embark home for my imaginary sordid affair. Not without paying £19.50 for a parking space which quite frankly wouldn’t fit a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 convertible in anyway.
Things have improved and it’s not all doom and gloom, cars are now more economic, they are far smarter and far safer.
But I can’t help but feel as I sit queuing in a 40mph zone of the M1 which was previously 70mph with 3 speed cameras trained on me and an overhead sign warning me of traffic, littering and bikes: the freedom and joy offered by driving isn’t quiet what I had envisaged.
I do still have the freedom of the open road, just as long as I avoid traveling between 6-10 am, 4-7 pm or during any ongoing traffic works, bank holidays, snow or rain oh and another thing; I must be back by 10pm before they close the M1 southbound…. again.