Saturday, February 19, 2005

Over Here, Officer

The idea of 'cool' is an irritating reality of 21st Century England. It allows the young and even the dispossessed to adopt the languid attitude of an eighteenth-century fop. To show an interest in practically anything violates the canons of coolness. "Whatever" is the teenager's airy dismissal of anything requiring the slightest intellectual or emotional effort. The only exception to the iron rule is that anything to do with football and drunkenness may be enthused about.

Coolness requires young men to spurn the seat belt in their vehicle; presumably maxillo-facial trauma will enhance street credibility. Now failing to wear a seat belt is a non-endorseable offence that is usually dealt with by the issue of a £30 fixed penalty ticket. What it does do though, is to cause police patrols to stop and speak to the driver. This prompts the usual enquiries as to the state of the vehicle, its insurance and licence, whether the driver has subjected himself to the rigours of a driving test, whether he is drunk, whether he has drugs about his person, whether the car contains goods that were until recently the property of an innocent householder, and whether the driver himself might be wanted on an arrest warrant. In a high proportion of seat-belt stops one or more of these factors is present, and the man (it's always a man) ends up in front of the court.

I have no wish to be baked in a tabloid pie, but it would be very satisfying to be able to say: "Look, you stupid little git, if you had been wearing the belt the police would have left you alone. There is no specific offence of acting like a prat, but if there were you would be guilty of it". Perhaps the week before I retire..................

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