Jenni Murray says we need to go further and volunteer to improve our driving skills after completing a National Speed Awareness Course
I am ashamed to admit that I spent two and a half hours this week taking a National Speed Awareness Course – through Zoom, like everything this day – as a punishment for driving 80 mph on the M3.
My pace happened on a sunny, quiet Sunday morning in the summer as I drove back to London from the south coast. To be honest, I had no idea that the smart freeway I was driving on could capture my speed with no obvious camera or police car.
At least I don't lack company. This week's figures show that in England and Wales alone, 2.3 million drivers were fined for speeding last year. That's 6,300 a day – a record number.
Nine of us were gathered on my course to share our thin excuses ("It was dry, the road was empty"; "I was only going 31 mph in a 30 mile zone"; "I was in a terrible hurry." ").
We were briefed by JP, a senior transportation officer who turned out to be a pretty brilliant teacher. Which was lucky because I soon realized that not only do I not fully understand the nuances of these pesky new smart highways. I'm also rusted by a lot of the things I learned for my test 50 years ago.
Speed limits were first on the curriculum and I thought I knocked these down. But then JP told us the rule is that it is always 30 mph where there are street lights, which surprised me.
We were also reminded that 20 mph is becoming more common in built-up areas. Annoying, but safer for pedestrians.
Then came the terrible part. Around 1,784 people are killed by vehicles in the UK each year and 93 percent of all cases are caused by driver error.
Killing someone as a driver is inconceivable. Whether it was your fault or not, hurting someone else is a terrible thing. I can only imagine how Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer must feel after he was involved in a collision that injured a cyclist on Sunday.
Yet it's easy not to think about the consequences of getting behind the wheel, especially if you've been driving for years. I wasn't particularly pleased when asked to renew my license when I turned 70 this year. We all like to think we have Lewis Hamilton's driving skills, but honestly we don't.
So I propose a plan that sounds radical. I think everyone, and especially those of us who took our tests a long time ago, should be sent on a refresher course. And that such a course should be a requirement every five years.
We all appreciate the independence a car gives us, and the thought of running a weekly grocery store without it is beyond daunting. We mumble about the endless rules and complain that speed cameras are nothing more than a money cow that collects pots of money, and what for?
In 1997 I interviewed a young writer about her first children's novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. J.K. Rowling signed a first edition for me. I gave it to my ten year old son to read in the BBC canteen while I worked. He came back to the office without it. "It's boring," he said. We were looking for it. Path. An unsigned first edition just sold for £ 60,000. I know child murder is illegal, but …!
I understand; But modern cars are faster, heavier, and far more dangerous than the ones we learned in the 1960s (in my case). Mine was a battered old Fiat 500 that barely made it past 30 mph.
It is rightly getting more and more difficult for drivers who break the rules. We learned this week that 12 points on a license is definitely a ban after the mail uncovered a loophole that allowed people to avoid one if they argue that it would mean losing work. No longer.
But we have to go further and voluntarily refresh our driving skills. We have a deadly weapon every time we sit behind the wheel, and it's time you and me reminded us.
Caroline proves that anyone can be a dancing queen
Jenni revealed she was blown away by Caroline Quentin, 60, who appeared on Strictly. Pictured: Caroline with her partner Johannes Radebe
Brava, Caroline Quentin! I swore I wouldn't watch Strictly anymore because I was fed up with all the backstories and drudgery at the dance studio last year.
But then I watched on Saturday and still told myself that I would be angry most of the time with anything.
I'm so glad I gave in. Caroline, 60 (with her partner Johannes Radebe), blew me away and showed that you don't have to be young, thin or semi-professional to dance a perfect, elegant American smooth. That's what the show should be about – she's a dancing queen indeed.
It shouldn't happen to a vet
How awful is it to have the headline, "Would You Pay £ 20,000 to Save Your Pet's Life?" To read.
If one of my adored pets (three dogs and a cat) were in need of such expensive treatment I would try to scrape the money together, I guess – but with serious concerns about using up my savings at my age.
But please don't blame the vets for the rising prices. Every veterinarian I have ever met wanted to be James Herriot, loving care for the animals in their care.
Yet big corporations have adopted so many practices and washed them with profit. The result is a mental crisis. Veterinarians are four times more likely to die than the average. It takes five years to qualify, the hours are long, student debt of £ 100,000 is common and the average salary is £ 34,000.
Then there is euthanasia. I have owned animals all my life and have cried many times when the lethal injection was given.
I doubt a vet will walk away from it unscathed. They deserve better care and more sympathy than companies are willing to give.
Cartoons don't make us racist
Jenni said it was nonsense for films like Lady And The Tramp (pictured) and Bambi to include a health warning about stereotypes
A few weeks ago I bought the Disney + app and watched two of my favorite films from my childhood in the 1950s: Lady And The Tramp and Bambi.
I sobbed over the fate of Bambi's mother, shot by the evil poachers, just like I did as a child. And I howled with laughter at Lady's vicious Siamese cats and at the dogs, including a very Mexican Chihuahua and a Russian Borzoi that Lady met at the pound.
Now I think the film is supposed to contain a health warning about naughty stereotypes. Nonsense! It is prejudicial parents who give a child hateful views, not movies.
I watched these films over and over as a kid, but that doesn't mean I forgot what my parents taught me: Everyone is the same, regardless of race.
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