Mclaren 675LT Coupé

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

A close en­counter with a ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient traf­fic of­fi­cial made me pon­der why mo­torists are quick to play the blame game

ON­SID­ER­ING just how slen­der the rear win­dow was on the Mercedes-benz SLS AMG I was driv­ing, it was im­pres­sive just how much vivid blue light man­aged to fil­ter into the car’s snug cabin. Quick to re­act to this duty call, I im­me­di­ately made way for an of­fi­cer of the law in the throes of an im­por­tant as­sign­ment. It was only once the flash­ing blue lights tracked my eva­sive ma­noeu­vre that I re­alised this of­fi­cial’s im­me­di­ate task was to stop me in my tracks.

Run­ning late for an early-morn­ing pho­to­shoot, and with my progress stub­bornly hin­dered by fast-lane-hog­ging minibus taxis, my fi­nal act of de­fi­ance – and one that may have cor­re­sponded with a lane change in­wards and an ag­gres­sive call to ac­tion from eight roar­ing cylin­ders – was un­for­tu­nately wit­nessed by an on-duty mem­ber of Cape Town’s un­der­cover traf­fic unit.

CTwenty min­utes later, as the un­marked Volk­swa­gen headed into a sunrise whose rich hues I was sup­posed to have been cap­tur­ing, I was left to re­flect not only on how much leaner my bank bal­ance was about to be­come, but also on the bru­tal ef­fi­ciency with which my mis­placed sense of en­ti­tle­ment and ar­ro­gance be­hind the wheel had been put in its place.

I was, af­ter all, ob­vi­ously the vic­tim here. How dare my alarm clock not wake me ear­lier? How dare other road users not an­tic­i­pate my ur­gency and re­lin­quish the fast lane? How dare the author­i­ties tar­get me in­stead of fo­cus­ing their at­ten­tion on the other road users so clearly break­ing the law that morn­ing?

Even­tu­ally ar­riv­ing at the shoot, I fu­ri­ously con­sid­ered which 140 char­ac­ters would best con­vey my har­row­ing or­deal at the hands of such an ar­ro­gant and stub­born traf­fic au­thor­ity to a so­cial net­work that would ob­vi­ously sym­pa­thise with my plight. Surely, had these of­fi­cers not cho­sen to sim­ply ig­nore my wor­thy ex­cuse, nor taken such per­ceived plea­sure in the spoil­ing of my morn­ing plans, it would some­how have made the taste much less bit­ter.

I was es­pe­cially grate­ful I didn’t end up mind­lessly tak­ing to so­cial media when, two months later, my in­trigue into the work­ings of the Ghost Squad saw me re­united with my cap­tur­ers ahead of a ride­a­long evening with the spe­cialised unit.

Ob­serv­ing night-shift pro­ceed­ings from the back seat of an im­mac­u­lately main­tained VW Golf GTI, I watched a team of ded­i­cated, thor­ough and ob­vi­ously proud of­fi­cers dili­gently ru­in­ing mo­torists’ evenings. Not, as I had as­sumed, be­cause they took plea­sure in it, but be­cause, quite frankly, they far too fre­quently wit­ness ap­palling driv­ing be­hav­iour on roads that, dur­ing any other evening, I might have been trans­port­ing my fam­ily.

While I’m not so naïve to think all uni­formed of­fi­cials, in all coun­tries, don’t en­joy a cer­tain level of per­sonal grat­i­fi­ca­tion from wip­ing a smug smile from the face of a law breaker, in a South African con­text that sat­is­fac­tion is surely muted by the sheer num­ber of of­fend­ers.

In­deed, while our coun­try regularly fea­tures on global top-10 lists of an­nual road fa­tal­i­ties – and amid alarm­ing re­ports of of­fi­cials more in­ter­ested in procur­ing lunch money than is­su­ing gen­uine fines – you have to sym­pa­thise with those try­ing to make a small dif­fer­ence. Con­sider too that in our coun­try, once that blue light is trig­gered, the of­fi­cer is also hedg­ing a bet on the level of hos­til­ity they are about to en­counter – and all of this on a min­i­mal state wage.

While we live in a land where, on any given day, road-rule in­fringe­ments with graver po­ten­tial con­se­quences than sim­ply trav­el­ling 10 km/h over the speed limit go un­seen, we should all play a larger role in mak­ing our com­mutes safer. Be­fore we can com­plain about be­ing easy tar­gets for of­fi­cials, why don’t we rather choose not to be a tar­get at all?

Of course, in­stead of my V8 su­per­car, I would have pre­ferred the ve­hi­cle trapped in the blue trac­tor beam that morn­ing to have been one of the many non-road­wor­thy and over­crowded taxis block­ing my path … but I can’t deny that my re­ac­tion to their lack of road man­ners re­sulted in me skirt­ing the law, too.

In an age where any­one with In­ter­net ac­cess is pro­vided a plat­form from which to cry foul, I find it fas­ci­nat­ing how many scorned traf­fic of­fend­ers’ de­fault to play­ing the vic­tim card be­fore con­sid­er­ing the larger pic­ture. Ex­cuses like “merely” glanc­ing at a mo­bile phone while driv­ing, “marginally” stray­ing over the speed limit or “only” be­ing one beer over the le­gal limit some­how sound more sooth­ing than, “I ad­mit to get­ting caught break­ing the law.”

Ian Mclaren quickly re­alised that he’d have more ac­cess to the CAR test fleet if he wrote as well as pho­tographed the cars for the mag­a­zine. Fif­teen years later, Ian is the long­est-serv­ing cur­rent mem­ber – and still writes nice

things about pretty cars.

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