The complete driver. Why worry? - sean

Sean Kirby gives a discourse on the Proper Use of the Queen?s Highway
With particular reference to Motor Bicycles

Firstly, let it be recognised and your goodself reassured that the Queen?s Highway was built and intended for the use of horseless carriages. Gentle reader, you have a right to use the Highways that you were born to as a free Englishman. We have no more need to be reminded of this, than as loyal subjects we require a written constitution.

The car, as you know, is a derivation of the gentleman?s carriage. As such, it is a conveyance of the well-to-do. You will, in such modern times, encounter cars that have fallen from grace into the hands of more common folk. If encountered singly, such unfortunates should be educated in the rightful manner of driving, and taught their proper place in the natural order. But, beware, members of the common herd will hunt in packs and have no sense of shame or even of personal danger.
Cars come in many forms, and each person is sure to find a model to suit them. While the sporting man may prefer a saloon of competent power and statesmanlike presence, there are several models more suited to the distaff side. Women, as is well known, lack fine skills in co-ordination or mechanical sympathy. Many manufacturers make large, four-wheel drive models specifically for the wifely duties of collecting offspring from school. With their rugged bumpers and large tyres, these specialist cars are ideal for coping with pedestrians, awkward parking places and crossing patrol wardens. Since schools tend to be busy places, it is much easier to double-park a large 4 x 4.

Motor bicycles, or motorcycles in the vernacular, are a development of the bicycle used by poor people. Emancipation and the national welfare system have raised these people to an expectation approaching parity with the driver. They can often be found riding upon the public highway. Motorcycles are in general a noisy and annoying contrivance and a vexation to the spirit. However, if all drivers were to adopt the practices expounded in this humble tome, the nuisance may be expunged forever.

The fully-appointed car has an engine at the front, a boot for luggage at the rear, and seats for the driver and his companions. Modern cars are paragons of reliability. There is no longer any need to check the tyres, lights or any part of the vehicle. Indeed, servicing may be delayed to an annual ritual. The manufacturers usually quote absurdly short intervals between services so as to maximise their profits. Should one?s vehicle ever fail in use, then it is possible to telephone one of the motoring organisations, and request immediate membership. If one takes into account the value of one?s own time then this is a more logical and economical option than servicing.

The Windscreen
This expanse of glass is much larger than required, and is usually a styling exercise. There is no harm in attaching one?s National Trust membership sticker to the side of the windscreen. Over the years these will build into a library and a history of your travels. In cold weather, the windscreen may be covered in a layer of frost. There is no need to remove this before departing. To do so would chill your hands and delay your journey. Clear the smallest space necessary to gain some impression of the road ahead, and drive as fast as possible, so as to bring the car?s heater into use more quickly, and clear the windscreen.

The external mirrors
These are very useful for making a quick visual check. Any vehicle that you can see in the mirror is usually far enough behind that you can pull out. These mirrors are also useful for checking the source of horn blasts and other noises when you manoevre. They should not be used for reversing, however, as the curvature of the glass makes distances hard to judge. When driving at night, the headlamps of following vehicles may reflect in the external mirrors and dazzle you. Either adjust the mirrors to remove the glare, or pull out in front of the offending vehicle.

The internal mirror
This may be used to hang air fresheners from, or by your companion to check her toilette. The mirror comes into occasional use as an aid to reversing, but is otherwise purely ornamental.

The headlights
The headlights, with the horn, are an expression of the driver?s mood and intentions. Flashing one?s headlights at a fellow driver may mean that you are intending to permit them to join the traffic stream, to turn across it, that you are warning them not to turn in front of you or to steal the gap ahead of you, or that you are displeased with their behaviour. An experienced driver will understand your meaning without further clues.
When one is particularly annoyed with the driver of a car ahead, one may use the headlights to gently cook the driver and occupants. For this reason, it is good to set the headlamp aim rather high.

The brakes
Modern cars have immensely powerful brakes and anti-lock systems. It is impossible to brake too hard. Much fun may be enjoyed by giving braking tests to following vehicles. Motorcycles are particularly good sport. Motorcyclists usually appear from nowhere behind one?s car, dosge from side to side and then overtake with great noise and no sign of respect. Motorcycles cannot brake as well as cars, and a motorcyclist who tries will cause the machine to stand upright upon its front wheel. This gives a salutary lesson to the rider and teaches them respect.

The horn
The horn is an instrument of expression for the driver. While it is tempting to believe that pressing the horn button harder will increase its volume, one must in fact use the duration of the note or its repetition to convey meaning.

The windows
The window in the driver?s door may be lowered to provide a comfortable resting place for the elbow in summer. Windows are also a convenient means of ejecting one?s rubbish from the car. When travelling at speed the noise and turbulence may make this uncomfortable, so the sunroof may be used instead. Great fun may be had with motorcyclists with the aid of a cigarette end, an apple core or the contents of the ashtray. If the motorcycle is not brought to a complete halt, then care should be taken to close all of the windows and avoid stopping until one is outside a police station.

The indicators
These may be used to indicate that you have just changed direction, but since any trained driver would have sensed your intentions, there is hardly any need. They do serve a purpose on roundabouts, where a random selection of right and left signals serves to prevent other drivers from encroaching on your roadspace, or blocking your exit.
The only practical use for indicators is as hazard warnings, when they are used together with the brakelights, the extra, middle, high-level brakelight and, perhaps, the rear foglights to show that you are slowing down on a motorway.
Alternatively, you may find them useful as an ?I am parked illegally? explanation for the unobservant.

Windscreen washers
A good set of washer jets is like having one?s own rear gunner. These are most enjoyable when used against a motorcyclist or open-topped car who has strayed too close to one?s rear bumper. A quick splash on the old washers will have the rider take one hand off the controls of their machine to wipe their plastic face mask. A very good time for one to give them a brake test.


There is an awful lot of tommy rot talked about the environment, mostly by vegetarians, who enjoy eating it. The political johnnies have seen the chance of a vote, and are making a bit of a fuss about leaded petrol, and all that. Rather than change one?s driving habits it is easier to use camouflage. A couple of bicycles strung on the back of the old jalopy will soothe the tree-huggers and possibly cover one?s number plate from the speed cameras.
If the bicycles are ever stolen or removed, do retain the carrying-frame. This has tine-like fingers protruding from the rear of the car at just around face height for motorcyclists and cyclists. When combined with the aforementioned brake test, it gives one the opportunity to carry the trophy home without having to leave the comfort of the driving seat.


The Highways and Byways of this sceptered isle offer a magnificent range of experiences.

These usually have three lanes. The innermost, or lane one, is reserved for lorries and caravans. As a result, this lane is usually almost always empty. Do not be tempted to use this lane, except for overtaking vehicles in the middle lane that will not cede your passage. Lorries and caravans should not stray into the other lanes, but often do. If you do encounter one straying from its appointed place, be sure to let the driver know of his error.
The middle lane, or lane two, is the cruising lane for cars. Resist all pressures to move into the slow lane as to do so would put you at a disadvantage.
The outer, or third, lane is the fast lane. This is the goal for all drivers of merit. With the power of modern brakes and the advantage of your reflexes and skills there is no longer any need for the old-fashioned concept of braking distance. Indeed, with a relative speed between vehicles of only a few miles per hour, the proper separation would be a matter of inches.
When joining the third lane, therefore, any gap as long as your car is sufficient. There is a challenge in this for the sporting man. If a gap is chosen that is shorter than the length of one?s car a wave of braking may be started in the following vehicles. Done well, this results in a rare opportunity to use the internal mirror to watch the firework display of fragments from the mistakes of less competent drivers.
When one has joined the third lane, one may find that one?s progress is blocked by others. This is where one?s mettle is tested. Take a position as close behind the vehicle as possible, and use one?s horn, headlights and physical gestures to persuade them to move into the cruising lane. If this is impossible, then take the opportunity to make telephone calls, read maps or use your electronic diary.
Motorways are joined by using a slip road. The correct way to use one of these is to move out to the right, overtake any lesser traffic on the slip road, and put oneself into the prime position. You then have priority over vehicles in the slow lane.

Country lanes are the glory England, but are often spoiled by farm machinery and debris. Four wheels give you the ability to ignore the conditions. Drive fast as you have four good tyres and ABS. If the unforeseen should occur, you also have airbags and insurance.
It is on winding roads that the failings of motorcycles are best seen. A motorcycle closing from behind will be seen to weave from one side of the lane to the other through corners. It is your duty to ensure that the rider is slowed to a safe and sensible speed and prevented from passing you if you are unsure of the conditions ahead.

In counterpoint, our towns and cities are the darker side of modern, egalitarian England. Frequently choked with traffic, one is driven to frenzy with frustration in trying to get to the scarce parking spaces left in these inner-city hells. It is here that the buzzing gnat, the stinging venomous banshee of the motorcycle, can bring one to the brink of apoplexy.
Motorcycles are slim and agile, and can slip between the lines of waiting cars. This is obviously illegal, but the Police Constable is these days either counselling drug-dealers or wielding speed guns at innocent drivers. As a result, one can expect one?s wing mirrors to be smashed off and one?s paintwork to be ravaged by dayglo-clad couriers and wobbling old women on scooters. The frustration is compounded because these banes can often accelerate away before one has had the opportunity to exact vengeance.
For relief, one must attack their weaknesses. Motorcycles, filtering between lines of cars, are particularly vulnerable to subtle movements to close the gap, or more obvious ploys such as opening the car door. Motorcyclists who stop must put a foot down, presenting ample opportunity to park on it.
The only advantage of the slimness of the motorcycle is that one need not offer them the same roadspace as a proper car. Since the rider will be used to filtering, one may filter in reverse by leaving only the smallest of gaps when overtaking them. If one is really skilled, one may capture a motorcyclist on one?s external mirror and convey them for quite some distance before they drop off. A moving motorcycle will also change direction with but the gentlest of nudges. With due diligence, a motorcycle may be aimed so as to create a useful gap in the approaching traffic. One need not be concerned with casualties. Motorcyclists are seldom people of note or value to society.

This is an art to be practiced. It is seldom mastered by the herd, but may be used by the gentleman driver to make progress. One usually finds obstructions such as tractors and lorries at the head of a long queue of cars, with each driver too afraid or lacking in skill to pass. It is your duty in such situations to both demonstrate the technique of passing, and to assert your right to do so. Coming upon the rear of such a queue one must work one?s way to the front. Do not worry about the closeness of the cars in front, gaps will be made. The very fact that you have left the rear of the line and moved forward will allow the vehicles you pass to drop back. However, on re-entering the queue one must take great care to leave no gap ahead. Your overtaking will have rekindled the spirits of the drivers you passed. They may try to overtake you, which must be prevented if you are to make progress.
Once at the head of the queue and directly behind the obstructing vehicle, frequent excursions to the opposite side of the road may be necessary to see past, or to block other misguided attempts by lesser vehicles behind trying to overtake. Obviously, being at the head of the queue gives you the absolute right to be first to pass.
Do be aware of motorcyclists in this situation. Their narrowness and acceleration give them the power to approach very rapidly and almost unseen. As already mentioned, they are easily deflected. If this should result in injury, or worse, to the rider, then the standard defence of claiming not to have seen him is usually accepted without question.

This, then, is a brief summary of the art of driving. The author does commend it with all humility for the approval and amusement of his betters and hopes that, by due consideration, the ideal of gentlemanly roadcraft may be attained.

Sean Kirby

The complete driver. Why worry? - KB.
It seems that I am the first to reply to your discourse, Sean and have to say I found it as entertaining and comprehensive a summary of driving today as could be imagined.

It has covered topics which have been debated time and time again both here and elsewhere and sums it all up nicely.

Not knowing anything of your own driving background or experience it is difficult to know how much is gained at personal cost or simply observations of what goes on around you (and everyone else) and it's not possible to detect how far embedded into the cheek your tongue is.

But I enjoyed it.
The complete driver. Why worry? - Ian (Cape Town)
I think HJ can get away with not writing a column for next week's Telegraph! he can just reprint this!
Well done sean, excellent work!
The complete driver. Why worry? - martint123
Sadly it's all too true. Very well written Sean (I can almost imagine the epistle written from a hospital bed with time on one hands ;-)

The complete driver. Why worry? - roscopervis
As I am Welsh, it seems a lot of this doesn't apply to me.
Re:"Gentle reader, you have a right to use the Highways that you were born to as a free Englishman." Not me so I have no right?

"Country lanes are the glory England, but are often spoiled by farm machinery and debris." If that is the case you should see some of the Welsh ones!

"In counterpoint, our towns and cities are the darker side of modern, egalitarian England. Frequently choked with traffic, one is driven to frenzy with frustration in trying to get to the scarce parking spaces left in these inner-city hells." Yes totally right on that one.

Value my car