Good Advice On The Road

The epic journey south, which I wrote about yesterday, was but the culmination of the 1360 miles I drove over the Christmas period, between the time I left home and the time I got back again.

All those miles  afforded me many hours on the road and ample opportunity to consider the multitude of signals and messages communicated intentionally, as well as those which come through in a more oblique fashion.

First of all there are the slightly puzzling season’s greetings on the roads in Strathclyde: ‘Merry Christmas.  Don’t take drugs and drive.’ An interesting variation on the ‘don’t drink and drive’ message, which maybe we have stopped noticing.

The difference in sentence construction had me pondering for a good few miles: we know that ‘drink’ in the warning phrase means don’t drink alcohol; that we are not being exhorted to forgo water, tea or orange squash (if indeed we would ever contemplate consuming such a thing), or are we?  There is no such short hand for the injesting of mind altering pharmaceuticals.

Having said that, we know that the prohibition against ‘drugs’ is aimed at those of an illegal nature, rather than those prescribed by a doctor; or is it? I’m sure if the person who writes the improving homilies for the illuminated gantry signs were to consult the illegal drug using community they might be furnished with many suitable descriptive phrases; they might be comprehensible only to that group, but that’s the group at whom the instruction is directed.  The fact that we might not understand it is neither here nor there, as we weren’t doing it anyway.

Unless they also mean those  over the counter cough medicines which suggest that one shouldn’t ‘operate machinery’ after taking them. Presumably, a car may be described as ‘machinery’, although that warning usually brings to my mind those health and safety films from the 1970s and 80s which usually culminated in someone losing a finger in a lathe.

‘Driving when tired is dangerous’ is an easier one to understand, and yet, why limit it to that?  Driving while having an argument is probably just as dangerous, especially in the Christmas period when families spend so much time together in confined spaces.  Seeing overloaded cars, every seat occupied, the back ledge filled with wrapped boxes and supermarket carrier bags always makes me think of pressure cookers.  Shouting at the fighting children in the back seat, and dealing with unhelpful suggestions from the person in the passenger seat is unlikely to improve one’s driving.

What about ‘Driving when you don’t know where you’re going can be high risk’?  That’s another one that is as true as the one about tiredness.  I often wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful to have a signal on my car that, when I’m in an area with which I’m not familiar, could show that I’m in the wrong lane, not because my mission in life is to aggravate other drivers, but because I’m a tiny bit lost.

And by the time all of this has occupied my attention, if I’m not careful, I’ve missed my junction.

Leave a comment


  1. alan

     /  January 17, 2012

    i really enjoyed the ‘don’t take drugs and drive’ signs; they were wonderfully stoic. It wasn’t heavy handed or overbearing as it could easily have been if it had simply said ‘don’t take drugs’ (a bit like check your tyre pressure’). The inference seemed to me to say it ok take drugs if you want but if you do then don’t drive as well. Pragmatic and poetic

    • Good point. Although in a funny sort of way they put into my head something I would never have thought have doing….


Do let me know what you think.......

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: