You’re cruising down the motorway, eating up the miles, when you see that dreaded sign. Roadworks, two miles ahead. And not just that, but it’s a 13-mile long stretch of 50mph road, peppered with everyone’s favourite government revenue maker, the average speed camera.
You continue along until you see the first of the 50mph signs. Two things happen at this point. First, a number of cars slam on their brakes, seemingly taken by surprise at the sudden change in speed limit and expecting heavy fines if they are doing anything over 50 the instant they pass the sign. The rest all dive for the outside lane, forcing a bunch-up, and thus more heavy brake usage. You hang back a bit, taking your foot off the accelerator, letting the car gradually slow to 50, and then switch on the cruise control.
Wisdom dictates that this would be the easy way through this section of road, and you think most people would figure this out. But alas, it’s only a matter of moments before you realise that no one knows what they’re doing.
You initially find yourself in the outside lane, passing those who slowed to 47 two miles back. Not half a mile into the work zone, you find your rear-view mirror rapidly filling with Audi, its driver blissfully unaware of how average speed cameras actually work. He’s convinced that as long as he’s doing 50 when he passes under the speed cameras, he’ll be fine. Everything in between is open season. After you gradually pass the lorry to your left, you move over, and he races by.
Resetting the cruise control to 50, you spot a Focus ahead. She looks to be comfortably cruising at 46, so it should be quick work getting round her, especially as the outside lane is clear. Without adjusting the speed, you approach, indicate, and move over. Only, suddenly the Focus is passing you, the presence of another car in her peripheral vision causing a reflex in her right foot. Before you know it, she’s switched the indicator on, ready to get around the Peugeot she is now rapidly approaching. She moves over, and immediately takes her foot off the accelerator, matching the speed of the car you thought she was going to pass. A back-and-forth game now ensues, as her unsteady foot can’t decide between 46 and 51. You close the gap between your two cars ever so slightly in the hopes that she’ll understand the error of her ways. After a few miles of fluctuation, she finally clears the Peugeot and moves back to the inside lane, and you sail by (only to notice the Peugeot pull out to pass, as she’s settled back down to 46, ready to begin the back-and-forth game again).
Back at 50, you see a Jaguar in the outside lane for no apparent reason, as the road ahead looks wide open. As you crest a slight hill, you then realise that there is a car over a mile ahead that you are closing in on incrementally. Mr Jag has his cruise control set at 49, ready to overtake the as-yet-undistinguishable car in the inside lane ahead doing 48.7, probably sometime next week. Wanting to honour the Highway Code’s rules on passing, you move in behind him and switch off your cruise control, assuming he will realise that there is more than enough time for him to move over and let you pass before he passes the car ahead. But no, he is resolute in his determination to occupy the outside lane. You start to wonder if it’s worth darting round him in the inside lane just to make a point, when the work zone ends, and the motorway again opens up to three lanes.
Once again cruising at 70, you give thanks that traffic wasn’t heavy, knowing that all of the above would have compounded to cause both lanes of traffic to crawl through the work zone at 39.