Safety Last for Risky Driver
In an unmarked police car, PC Jim Lovell is waiting to join the M4. Just before the lights turn green, he watches a VW Golf shoot through an amber signal and scream up the entry slip road ahead. Despite late afternoon traffic, the driver appears determined to go as fast – and as furiously – as he can.
Lovell keeps up over the next few miles, watching as the Golf driver carries out a catalogue of risky manoeuvres. At one point, he is maintaining 70mph just a few feet behind an unsuspecting Ford Fiesta.
Shortly afterwards, the Golf driver sees his chance and darts into an inside lane to gain headway. An on-board camera records the scene. After witnessing several more close encounters, Lovell activates his blue lights and escorts the Golf to a halt on the hard shoulder. A few questions reveal the driver to be 27-year-old Hugh Rattigan, who has nine points on his licence from recent speeding offences. He says he has just failed his accountancy exams for the third time and is rushing to London where his girlfriend has said she’s ending their relationship.
Lovell seats Rattigan in the police car and replays the entire video sequence. By the time it finishes, Rattigan is clearly distressed and ready in part to acknowledge the low standard of his driving. “When you see it on video, it’s that much harder to defend,” he says. “But the journey was an inconvenience and I had more important things to do than stick to speed limits or safe following distances.”
Rattigan agrees to complete a driver behaviour questionnaire, which we forward to risk-assessment expert and driver-training consultant Graham Griffiths. “Mr Rattigan displayed a lethal mix of emotion and stress that was feeding his already-proven instinct to violate,” Griffiths says. “He might not have meant harm to others, but he was creating an atmosphere of competition and conflict in an environment where there were already risks. In his bid to win space or time over fellow motorists, he ignored their safety and his own.
“Far from having his mind on the road, Rattigan was focusing on the goal of retrieving his relationship or explaining his poor accountancy performance. He would do well to remind himself of the potentially catastrophic consequences of this kind of driving. They far outweigh the problems brought about by flunking his exams.”